Trent Reznor–TVT Records feud

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The Trent Reznor–TVT Records feud was a rivalry that occurred between 1990 and 1992. Before the feud, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and John Malm, Jr. contacted several record labels, and the act signed to TVT Records in 1989. Following the release of Pretty Hate Machine (1989), he delivered disputes and criticisms over the record label through the course of its promotion.

The feud came to an end when Reznor founded Nothing Records along with his former manager and signed to Interscope Records. Broken was the act's major label debut, followed by The Downward Spiral in 1994. Following the release date of Year Zero (2007), Reznor had a dispute with Interscope, and criticized the label's distribution and pricing plans for the album. Before TVT filed for bankruptcy in 2008, the act signed out of Interscope, and had completed its contractual obligation with the record label, and Reznor founded The Null Corporation.


Working nights at Right Track Studio as a handyman and janitor,[1] Reznor used studio "down-time" to record and develop his own music. Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo. The sequencing was done on a Macintosh Plus.[2]

Teaming up with manager John Malm, Jr., they sent the demo to various record labels. Nettwerk were wanting to sign the band, but Nine Inch Nails rejected this idea. Reznor received serious offers from many of them, but eventually signed a deal with TVT Records who, until then, were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records.[3]

Produced by Flood and John Fryer and released on October 20, 1989, the album was a critical and commercial success for an independent record label, receiving radio airplay for the singles "Down in It", "Head Like a Hole" and "Sin".[4] The songs "Terrible Lie" and "Something I Can Never Have" also received moderate airplay along with the three lead singles.[5] Pretty Hate Machine also gained popularity through word-of-mouth and developed an underground following.[6] Although the album failed to break into the Top 70, after spending 113 weeks on the Billboard 200,[7] Pretty Hate Machine became one of the first independently released records to attain platinum certification.[1]

Reznor quickly hired a band for touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain, including guitarist and future Filter frontman Richard Patrick. This newly formed live version of Nine Inch Nails went on to became a support act for Peter Murphy. Concerts of the act during the time was known for louder, more aggressive versions of the studio songs, and also for destroying their instruments at the end of concerts (Reznor preferred using the heel of his boots to strip the keys from expensive keyboards, most notably the Yamaha DX7).[1][8] Rockbeat interviewer Mike Gitter attributed the live band's early success in front of rock oriented audiences to this aggressive attitude.[9] The Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series continued into the Jane's Addiction-curated Lollapalooza 1991 festival.[4]


Following his read of a Rolling Stone review of Pretty Hate Machine, Reznor was swift to criticize and reject such labels as "mope rock," "psychotic techno-pop," "angst ridden," "house" and "techno-pop."[10] Despite his criticism of these labels, he was a fan of the review. Rolling Stone's Michael Azerrad described the album as "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework" and "harrowing but catchy music";[11] Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in [his] head at the time".[12]

TVT was expecting Pretty Hate Machine to hit the Top 40 in its debut week and reach number one on the Billboard 200 after three weeks. When this expectation did not turn out as expected, they ordered Reznor to make a more successful album.[13]

As a series of tours promoting the album were finished, the act returned to the United States. TVT were still urging Reznor to create a follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine.[13] After finding out they were taking hindering control over his project, Reznor eventually dismissed their classification of Nine Inch Nails as a synthpop band.[14] He also demanded his label terminate his contract, but they ignored his plea.[15] In response, Reznor secretly began recording under various pseudonyms to avoid record company interference.[16] The frontman later said that he hated TVT, and while he was thinking of remaining low-prolific for the year of 1992, they agreed to let him sign to Interscope Records, while recording an extended play named Broken (1992):

We made it very clear we were not doing another record for TVT. But they made it pretty clear they weren't ready to sell. So I felt like, well, I've finally got this thing going but it's dead. Flood and I had to record Broken under a different band name, because if TVT found out we were recording, they could confiscate all our shit and release it. Jimmy Iovine got involved with Interscope, and we kind of got slave-traded. It wasn't my doing. I didn't know anything about Interscope. And I was real pissed off at him at first because it was going from one bad situation to potentially another one. But Interscope went into it like they really wanted to know what I wanted. It was good, after I put my raving lunatic act on.[4]

Reznor objected to the label's attempted interference with his intellectual property.[17] At the same time, he and Malm founded Nothing Records.[18] Ultimately, they entered into a joint venture with Interscope in which Reznor forfeited a portion of his publishing rights (Leaving Hope Music) to TVT Music in exchange for the freedom of having his own imprint.[19] Although happy with this decision, he called Interscope his least favorite record label.[20]


Nine Inch Nails' first release under the Interscope label was the Broken EP, which was quickly followed by a remixed version entitled Fixed. Both EPs were controversial due to content of the associated Broken Music Video and therefore did not receive heavy rotation.[21] After almost 20 months of waiting for new material, The Downward Spiral was released on March 8, 1994 and entered the Billboard 200 at number two, behind number one Superunknown by Soundgarden.[22] The Downward Spiral was the final time TVT's logo was printed on a Nine Inch Nails album and also marked Flood's last collaboration with the act.[23]

During the act's contract with Interscope, their commercial anticipation continued to increase. 1999's The Fragile is also a concept album, but differs from its precursors. It debuted at number one, but escaped from the Top 10 after one week.[24] With Teeth was released almost six years later to another number one debut,[25] following Reznor's countersuit against his former manager, with all of its singles ("The Hand that Feeds", "Only", and "Every Day Is Exactly the Same") topping the Modern Rock Tracks and Canadian Singles Chart ("Only" did not have any involvement at the pole position in Canada) and becoming Nine Inch Nails' best charting appearances. Both were produced by Alan Moulder and were enormous commercial blockbusters, despite polarized reviews. Year Zero had a better critical reception than both albums. However, the accompanying alternative reality game was the subject to Reznor's dispute with Interscope regarding its marketing campaign and price, and the act fulfilled its contractual commitments before a remixed version of the album was released.[26]

Reznor founded The Null Corporation in 2008, the year when TVT bankrupted, and released two albums (Ghosts I–IV and The Slip). Releases after the feud failed to duplicate the act's previous successes, resulting in diminishing returns, and because of a lack of advertisements or promotion, both failed to top any charts.[27] Despite their disappointing chart appearances, they were released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence.[28][29]

Pretty Hate Machine went out of print through TVT Records, but was reissued by Rykodisc Records on November 22, 2005 with slight changes in the packaging. Reznor had expressed an interest in creating a "deluxe edition" with surround sound remastering and new/rare remixes, similar to the re-release of The Downward Spiral. Rykodisc liked the idea, but wanted Reznor to pay them to do so.[30]

TVT experienced legal issues in its final years. Five years after a dispute with Island Def Jam, TVT lost a $9 million lawsuit to Slip-N-Slide Records when a Florida judge ruled that the record label who filed the lawsuit had legal rights to distribute an unreleased album it owned by rapper Pitbull that he recorded for them in 2001. TVT, who signed him several years later, had sought to notice third parties (such as record stores or digital download entities) that the distribution and sale of this album would violate their exclusive right to create new music by the artist. The judge, however, ruled against the record label as Pitbull had made the recordings prior to signing with TVT, and awarded Slip-N-Slide the $9 million judgement as they had attempted to block the sale of the album. TVT filed for appeal but was unable to post the required bond, thus they filed for bankruptcy.[31] Initially, the label were to continue as active,[32] but the digital music label The Orchard was declared the winning bidder by a New York bankruptcy court and gained control of TVTs artist contracts, catalogue recordings, and its distribution infrastructure, thus retiring the TVT Records label imprint. The music publishing assets were transferred to TVT Music Enterprises, and later purchased by Reservoir Media Management.[33]

On March 29, 2010, the master recording rights of Pretty Hate Machine were acquired by the Bicycle Music Company and on October 22, 2010, Trent Reznor announced that a remastered reissue of the album would be released by UMe and Bicycle Music Group on November 22, 2010. The re-release includes new cover art by Rob Sheridan and the bonus track "Get Down, Make Love", a Queen cover originally found on the "Sin" single.[34] Leading up to the re-release of the album, a website was put up for fans featuring content from videos and tours for Pretty Hate Machine. The videos for "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" featured newly remastered sound, the uncut video for "Sin" (a remix for the video was used, which did not lead to the song being remastered) and two early live video segments, one with interviews.


  1. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Nine Inch Nails". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  2. ^ Mathew Honan (1 February 2002). "Pro File: Nailing a New Look". Macworld. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  3. ^ Unknown author. Who the Hell is John Malm? (transcript). The New Alternatives. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
  4. ^ a b c Duemling, Keith (March 1996). Sympathy for the Devil (transcript). Spin. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  5. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 39
  6. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 40
  7. ^ "The Billboard 200 - Pretty Hate Machine". Billboard. Nielsen Company. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  8. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 45
  9. ^ Gitter, Mike (1992). "The man behind the machine". Rockbeat. 
  10. ^ Pettigrew, Jason (1990). Branding Nine Inch Nails (transcript). Rockflash. Retrieved 06-13-2011.:

    These catch phrases like "mope rock," "psychotic techno-pop" or "angst ridden" are all bullshit," he explains over the phone from his Cleveland apartment. "The thing that really pisses me off is when somebody has some elaborate interpretation of what I'm trying to say in one song or just reading too much about it and getting it completely wrong, kind of like Rolling Stone magazine.

  11. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1990). "Nine Inch Nails". Rolling Stone. 
  12. ^ Martin, Steve (1990). "Nine Inch Nails". Thrasher. 
  13. ^ a b Huxley (1997), p. 52
  14. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 57
  15. ^ Jo-Ann Greene (21 February 2001). "Nine Inch Nails : Happiness Is Slavery". Musician Magazine. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  16. ^ "Nine Inch Nails". Musician. March 1994. 
  17. ^ Rule, Greg (1999). Electro Shock!: Groundbreakers of Synth Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-582-7. 
  18. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 60
  19. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 55
  20. ^ Berger, Joshua and Lengvenis, Eric. NINE INCH NAILS: AN INTERVIEW WITH TRENT REZNOR. Plasm (1994). Retrieved 2011-06-04.
  21. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 82
  22. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 120
  23. ^ The Downward Spiral (Interscope Records/nothing/TVT, March 8, 1994) artwork.
  24. ^ Billboard Chart 10/16/99. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  25. ^ Whitmire, Margo (2005-05-11). "NIN's 'Teeth' Sparkle At No. 1". Billboard. Nielsen Media. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  26. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (2007-10-08). "Nine Inch Nails Celebrates Free Agent Status". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  27. ^ Van Buskirk, Eliot (2008-05-05). "Nine Inch Nails Gives Fans The Slip". Wired Blog Network. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  28. ^ Amy Phillips (2008-03-02). "New Nine Inch Nails Album Available NOW". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-03-02. [dead link]
  29. ^ "Ghosts – FAQ". Nine Inch Nails. 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  30. ^ Trent Reznor talks about PHM re-issue, touring. The NIN Hotline. Last accessed January 10, 2008.
  31. ^ Daily Deal/The Deal
  32. ^ "Music label TVT Records to file for bankruptcy". Reuters. 2008-02-19. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Pretty Hate Machine Press Release. The Bicycle Music Company. Accessed October 26, 2010.


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