Bloomberg reported this morning that Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, will help "oversee" a completely overhauled version of Apple Music, Cupertino's Spotify-like streaming music service, that's set to debut at WWDC in June.
If there's anyone whose extensive experience with digital music can help guide Apple's streaming efforts (and it could use all the help it can get, beset as it is with a confusing user interface and so-so features like the Connect social hub), it's Reznor, who was an active participant in the early digital music scene when record labels were still afraid of the likes of The Pirate Bay and long before Spotify taught people to embrace streaming.
Reznor first joined Apple as part of the $3 billion acquisition of Beats, but his digital music chops date back to 2007.
In an October 2007 interview, Reznor admitted to being a member of Oink's Pink Palace, a legendary website where music fans (read: pirates) could swap high-fidelity versions of entire albums within seconds using the BitTorrent protocol. Getting into the site, which had shut down a week before Reznor's admission, was not easy: It was a know-someone-who-knows-someone kind of thing, and you had to prove that you could be trusted to be a productive member of the community. That is, you could be trusted to upload music to others and not merely snatch the latest 50 Cent or Kanye West album and disappear into the ether.
"I'll admit I had an account there and frequented it quite often," Reznor told New York MagazineNew York Magazine, emphasizing the sheer breadth and fidelity of music available on the website. "If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now," he added.
Reznor, it turned out, was no mere fan of comprehensive music trading sites like Oink. In March 2008, Nine Inch Nails confirmed that it had uploaded its then-new album, Ghosts Vol. 1, to What.cd and Waffles.fm, two sites that sprung up following Oink's demise. (The sites are still going strong today, and were among the first to host pirated versions of Drake latest album, Views.)
"We use torrents ourselves, and we know that most NIN fans are tech-savvy and familiar with file-sharing, so we want to experiment with ways to use that to our advantage, instead of making the mistake of trying to fight or ignore it, as so many artists and labels do," Nine Inch Nails' Rob Sheridan told file-sharing news website TorrentFreak.
Nine Inch Nails then went on to release its next album, The Slip,on its own website for free, a move that was praised for its boldness. "This one's on me," Reznor said.
Simply put, Reznor possess one of the keenest minds when it comes to how fans consume digital music, and that kind of knowhow is exactly what Apple Music needs to stand out from the pack. Finger's crossed.