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TVT Records
Founded 1985
Founder Steve Gottlieb
Distributing label TVT
Genre Rock, Hip Hop, Pop, Electronica, Soundtracks, Jazz
Country of origin United States
Location New York City, New York
Official Website

TVT Records one of the most successful independent labels in US history founded by Steve Gottlieb. Over the course of its 25 year history the label released some 25 Gold, Platinum and Multi-platinum releases. Its artistic discoveries included Nine Inch Nails, Ja Rule, Lil Jon, Underworld, KLF, Sevendust, Brian Jonestown Massacre (subject of the Award Winning Documentary Dig!) and Pitbull. Its biggest commercial successes ranged from release of the triple platinum Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine, to two double platinum releases by Lil Jon, to platinum releases by Snoop Dogg and the Eastside Boyz, Dashboard Confessional, Default and Ying Yang Twins.

From 2001 through 2006 TVT was recognized by Billboard as the largest US Independent label with sales during this period surpassing $50 million a year. Its success in identifying unique breakthrough talent across a large range of genres was matched by its unusual business structure as a label that received no funding or distribution support from the Majors. No other American independent label in the modern music business has achieved as many charting albums without the support and underwriting of one of the Majors.



The label was founded as TeeVee Toons in 1985 by Steve Gottlieb, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law. He launched the label from his New York City apartment with the release of Television's Greatest Hits an album featuring theme songs from classic TV shows. The album became a worldwide smash ( rising to as high as #3 on the Australian Top Album Charts). The San Francisco Chronicle called the album "the most fun you can have with your pants on" and the New York Times highlighted it in a yearend business round up of the most notable business idea's of 1985.[1] In 1986 Gottlieb turned down offers to sell his growing TeeVee Toons franchise to the majors and chose instead to open TVT, a label devoted to artist discovery and the building of artist brands. Gottlieb sought to overcome what he saw as the major labels’ fatal flaw, internal cannibalization. This internal competition for resources in Gottlieb's view led majors abandon otherwise worthwhile investments because of organizational constraints with the result that many artists signed to Majors might fail for reasons having nothing to do with their music. Gottlieb reasoned that artists might prefer a smaller label than the majors if they could have greater assurance of the label's commitment to long term career development.

TVT brought to its artist approach a proprietary distribution arm that ensured artists albums would be in store during artist early career development and belief that long term branding and grassroots marketing could be as potent a vehicle for launching artists as the then predominant model of mass appeal Top Forty single oriented marketing.

The business strategy combined with Gottlieb's ability to identify and develop unique unrecognized talent proved powerful as the label began a run in artist discovery and development that produced breakthroughs year after year for the twenty years that followed. The breakthroughs game across many genres and most often were by artists who pushed the boundaries of existing trends. Those artists included The Saints, Shona Laing, Nine Inch Nails, the Connells, Aphex Twin, Tackhead, KLF, Underworld, Gravity Kills, Buck O Nine, Jurrasic Five, Sevendust, Default, XTC, Guided By Voices, jimmy Page and the Black Crowes, Bounty Killer, KMFDM, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Gil Scott Heron, Snoop Dog presents tha Eastside Boys, Just Jack, Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins, Pitbull, Teedra Moses and Ambulance LTD.

Meanwhile TVT's endeavors in TV, Film and Broadway soundtracks grew. Television's Greatest Hits became an eight volume series collectively selling several million copies around the globe. TVT released over 30 film and TV soundtracks from major studios and smaller independent films including the multi platinum Mortal Kombat soundtrack. Its theatrical music releases including the definitive Stephen Sondheim Follies.

In 1992, TVT purchased Chicago-based Wax Trax! Records, another independent label that had been successful in the 1980s with the then-new industrial music genre. Wax Trax! is credited for helping to bring industrial music to the forefront.

In 1996 the company's growth and Gottlieb's bid on TV station WNYC resulted in Crain's citing Gottlieb as one of its 40 under 40 Rising Stars to Watch.[2]

In 1999 TVT completed a securitization that enabled it to raise $23.5 million in growth capital.[3] Until that time the company had bootstrapped its own growth from its initial capitalization of $125,000.

In 2000 TVT Records opened TVT Distribution, an independent distribution company for third party labels, among them Vagrant Records. TVT Distribution in conjunction with Vagrant went on to achieve platinum success with release of Dashboard Confessional.

The label's publishing arm, TVT Music Publishing signed songwriter/producers Scott Storch who won Top Producer of the Year for ASCAP in 2004 and Lil Jon who won Top Producer of the Year for BMI in 2005. Those writers along with the rest of the TVT Music Publishing roster helped its catalog grow to over a hundred Top Charting songs recorded by such artists as Usher, Pink, Beyonce, Christine Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown among others.

TVT was a leader in digital exploitation of music. In 2000 It became the first label to put its entire catalog online available for downloading and free streaming by fans. While the music industry went to war with Napster in 2001 TVT was the only label to come to an amicable arrangement with Napster for use of TVT's artist copyrights and TVT's CEO joined the Napster advisory Board. Gottlieb appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2001 on a panel that included Richard Parsons, then head of Time Warner and Ken Berry head of EMI and artists Alanis Morissette and Don Henley.[4]TVT also was a supporter and licensor of many startup music enterprises. CEO Gottlieb served on the Board of Directors Musicmatch (sold to Yahoo!).

TVT was a founding member to the Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and organization devoted to protecting independent labels interests.[5]

In 2002 the label got into a dispute with Lyor Cohen then head of Island Def Jam who had famously told the Financial Times the year earlier "if its not nailed down expect me to steal it". The dispute involved Cohen and Universal paying former TVT artist Ja Rule $8 million to not deliver an album paid for by TVT and promised to TVT and instead deliver it to Universal. In the resulting litigation Universal was enjoined from releasing the masters created with TVT's funding as it had intended. In the ultimate trial over the claims of fraud and tortious interference a jury awarded TVT $132 Million judgment. Universal refused to settle instead opting to appeal. On appeal Cohen and Universal argued the existence of an agreement between the parties meant that their behavior was only a breach of contract and not a fraud or tort. The court agreed upholding only that small fraction of the damages related to the acknowledged breach of contract. In the wake of the IDJ litigation both Universal and Warner (run now by former IDJ Chief Lyor Cohen) were involved in multiple other lawsuits initiated against the company

In 2008 TVT a Florida judge ruled that a letter by TVT to retailers had caused retailers and Warner affiliate ADA to cancel an album another label was planning to release. The disputed album was composed of short vocal snippets taken from early demo recordings which were mixed in with new music. TVT sought to notice third parties of its belief the release of the recordings potentially violated its exclusive rights to crete new music by the artist. The jury ruled against TVT. TVT filed for appeal but was unable to post the required bond. Faced with a writ of garnishment the company filed to reorganize. (Daily Deal/The Deal)[6]

On February 19, 2008, Gottlieb stated "This is not the end of TVT."[7] In June the company sold its recording assets to The Orchard The Orchard. The music publishing assets were transferred to TVT Music Enterprises which continues to operate under Gottlieb's management.




Former artists


External links


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