Trent Reznor: YouTube Was “Built On The Backs Of Free, Stolen Content”

Earlier this week, Apple revealed the Apple Music redesign Trent Reznor oversaw to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its launch. After the announcement at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, a few of Apple Music’s big wigs, including Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue, talked about the past year and the future of Apple Music with Billboard. Of course competition with other streaming services would have to be a part of the conversation, and Reznor unloaded specifically on YouTube, one of Apple’s top competitors. Here’s what the Nine Inch Nails frontman had to say:

Personally, I find YouTube’s business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big. I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That’s how I feel about it. Strongly. We’re trying to build a platform that provides an alternative — where you can get paid and an artist can control where their [content] goes.

When asked whether or not he receives checks from Apple Music as an artist in addition to his role as consultant, he evaded answering directly by saying:

I’m not looking at the financials as much, but through [the lens] of a consumer. When Jimmy and I first sat down years ago, it was very clear that the future is streaming. And I bring to that the burden and legacy of having come from the system before that, where livelihood could be made selling physical products and life made sense, you knew who the enemies were and you knew how to get your music out… And in this state of disruption, what interests me most as an artist, and what has been great about working with Jimmy before Apple and within the Apple ecosystem, is trying to bring that sense of opportunity to the musician.

Reznor also expressed concern for the mom-and-pop record shops closing their doors all over the country, but he’s optimistic about the opportunities that could come with streaming being the main method of consuming music. Apple Music currently boasts 15 million subscribers, and Cue claims the streaming numbers have impacted digital sales positively.

UPDATE: YouTube offered a response to NME:

The overwhelming majority of labels and publishers have licensing agreements in place with YouTube to leave fan videos up on the platform and earn revenue from them.”

Today the revenue from fan uploaded content accounts for roughly 50 percent of the music industry’s YouTube revenue. Any assertion that this content is largely unlicensed is false.”

To date, we have paid out over $3 billion to the music industry – and that number is growing year on year.