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Trent Reznor ponders social media, tech execs as rock stars

Commentary: The Nine Inch Nails frontman and Apple Music heavy weighs in on music stars with vast social media presences.

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor would rather get it out on stage than on Twitter.

Harmony Gerber/Getty Images

Music has changed.

Not so long ago, the release of an album was a much-anticipated event. Now it's here today and gone tomorrow. Because tomorrow there's another new album coming out.

And then there's all that social media stuff. It seems some artists are more into Twitter than, well, music.

In a recent interview with Vulture, Apple Music exec and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor had a word or two to say about music stars with vast social media presences.

He admitted that seeing some stars so open and active on social media has affected him.

"Demystification is a real problem," he said. "There've been people whose music I can't like anymore because I've seen them bitching on Twitter about a waiter."  

Asked about how Taylor Swift and Drake had used these modern social methods, Reznor said, "I see what Drake's been able to pull off in terms of being omnipresent and constantly engaging an audience that seems to enjoy the way he's engaging them."

Reznor intimated that, at least in a sense, he admired this skill.

Still, he seems mystified by Drake's music.

"I've asked people, 'What is it that's good about Drake?'" he told the publication, insisting that he wasn't being cynical. "I've said to my friends at Apple, 'Explain to me why.' As the old guy, I don't see it."

I wonder if age really has that much to do with it. Technology has simply wrought such major changes that music has become a generally more frivolous affair.

You can stream millions of songs. None is important, in the way an album launch was in, say, the '70s. Each song is now disposable, there to suit a nanosecond of mood and then perhaps be permanently forgotten.

Therefore, stars like Drake sell their personalities. It's a little like museums. Once upon a time the Victoria and Albert Museum in London described itself as "an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached."

People would go to the museum for the cafe, rather than the artifacts. People come to music for the personality show. The music, is, well, attached. 

Just as museums have been forced to evolve by the changing (though not necessarily better) times, rock stars are different these days. If there are any true rock stars left at all, that is, under the age of 70. One thing Reznor is sure of, is that tech execs and their ilk aren't the new rock stars.

"What a load of bullshit that is," he told Vulture.

He explained: "Music or film or writing or journalism -- things that inspire emotional connections -- are so much more important to me than things that only have utilitarian ends. I'm glad someone figured out a food-delivery service. That's made my life a little bit better. But that's not that interesting to me."

He's not even moved by artists who have crossed into technology. "I don't want to hear about 'Ashton Kutcher's a f---ing tech genius," he said. "I don't give a s--- about that."

Kutcher's representatives didn't respond to a request for comment. Neither did Drake's.

Music lifts the spirits. Technology just lifts the burden from you having to go to the store. Yet those behind it believe they're changing the world. 

Perhaps they are. But you won't feel a thing while they're doing it.

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