Trent Reznor talks Beats Music and Apple's secret project

The Nine Inch Nails frontman explains why he's "on side of streaming music" and how he's taking a creative bite out of Apple.

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Trent Reznor considers himself a "life-long Apple consumer, fan and advocate." Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Musician, singer and technology advocate Trent Reznor never shies away from risky ventures. As a pioneer in the industrial music movement from the late '80s to the present, the Nine Inch Nails frontman loved to experiment with music and its distribution. In fact, while frustrated with his former label Interscope, he encouraged fans to steal his music. He has also on occasion gifted fans with free full-length Nine Inch Nails albums to download and remix at their pleasure.

Reznor sat down with Billboard magazine recently and talked about his collaborations with filmmaker David Fincher, which includes the latest music soundtrack for the disturbing thriller "Gone Girl." He also shared his thoughts about his work with subscription streaming service Beats Music and the future of streaming music.

"I am on the side of streaming music, and I think the right streaming service could solve everybody's problems," Reznor told Billboard. "Ownership is waning. Everybody is comfortable with the cloud -- your documents, who knows where they are? They are there when you need them. That idea that I've got my records on the shelf doesn't feel as important even to me as it used to. I just think we haven't quite hit the right formula yet."

Apple acquired Beats Music when it bought Beats for $3 billion earlier this year. As the chief creative officer of Beats Music, fans are curious as to how Reznor's role will evolve under Apple's leadership.

"Beats was bought by Apple, and they expressed direct interest in me designing some products with them," Reznor told Billboard. "I can't go into details, but I feel like I'm in a unique position where I could be of benefit to them. This is very creative work that's not directly making music, but it's around music. It's exciting to me, and I think it could have a big enough impact that it's worth the effort. I'm fully in it right now, and it's challenging, and it's unfamiliar and it's kind of everything I asked for -- and the bad thing is it's everything I asked for."

Apple declined to comment on Reznor's role within the company.

But don't expect the next Nine Inch Nails album to be delivered automatically, and without consent, to your iTunes like the recent U2 - iPhone debacle.

"As an artist, when I make a piece of music, I'd like you to know it's out there," Reznor told Billboard. "I don't want to force it down your throat, but I would like you to know that if you'd like to, you might brush against it -- it exists somewhere."

Of course, many music fans already know that they can not only brush against Nine Inch Nails and other Reznor music projects on iTunes, but for free on YouTube and elsewhere without having to pay a dime.

"I think that paying for music is a relic of an era gone by -- and I'm saying that as somebody who hopes you pay for music," Reznor told Billboard. "I've spent my life trying to make this thing that now everyone thinks should be free. When you put your music on, or allow your music to be on, YouTube, which is free, is that [devaluing music]? There's a whole generation of kids that listen to music on YouTube, and they'll suffer through that ad if there is one. They're not going to pay a dollar for that song -- why would you? It's a complex problem."

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