Interscope Records is the record label to which Nine Inch Nails were signed from 1992 to 2007, after a much-publicized feud with TVT Records. Ultimately, TVT entered into a joint venture with Interscope that allowed Trent Reznor to begin releasing NIN albums on his own Nothing Records imprint, set up with his then manager, John Malm.
Interscope was acquired by Universal Music Group in 1998, and now operates as one third of UMG's Interscope Geffen A&M Records label group.
Signing Nine Inch Nails
Interscope co-founder Jimmy Iovine first became aware of Nine Inch Nails in 1991, during their meteoric Lollapalooza run. Iovine knew that many competing record labels were eager to sign NIN, and were considering legal litigation routes to help NIN get out of their record deal with TVT, though that would be a difficult fight. Iovine took a different tack, and tried to convince TVT owner Steve Gottlieb that it would be in his best interest take on a partner. Every day for almost a year, he would call Gottlieb, Malm, and Ross Rosen (NIN's lawyer) to try to convince them to make a deal. In summer 1992, Gottlieb finally relented, and Interscope assumed NIN's recording contract. While TVT was still ostensibly involved in the contract, they became essentially a silent partner, with no creative control.
Reznor, who had not been involved in the negotiations, was extremely wary of this new record label. His fears, however, were allayed after his first meeting with Iovine. Iovine asked him what he needed from the label, and Reznor said he wanted complete creative control from recording all the way through packaging and releasing. Iovine agreed and asked what else he wanted. Reznor asked for a record label that he could use to sign other bands, and thus the Nothing Records vanity label was born. After the meeting, Reznor presented Interscope with "Broken", which had been recorded in secret to avoid interference from TVT, and that became the first Nine Inch Nails release on Interscope. 
Universal Music Group & Year Zero Pricing
On May 13, 2007 Reznor made a post on his blog on the official Nine Inch Nails website condemning Universal Music Group for their pricing and distribution plans for Year Zero. The full text of that post is as follows:
As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more. A couple of examples that quickly come to mind:
- The ABSURD retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia. Shame on you, UMG. Year Zero is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music. Avril Lavigne's record in the same store was $21.99 ($18.21 US). By the way, when I asked a label rep about this his response was: 'It's because we know you have a real core audience that will pay whatever it costs when you put something out - you know, true fans. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy.' So... I guess as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off.
- The dreaded EURO Maxi-single. Nothing but a consumer rip-off that I've been talked into my whole career. No more.
The point is, I am trying my best to make sure the music and items NIN puts in the marketplace have value, substance and are worth you considering purchasing. I am not allowing Capital G to be repackaged into several configurations that result in you getting ripped off.
We are planning a full-length remix collection of substance that will be announced soon.
After the above post, Reznor stated in an interview that he was interested in self-releasing future material:
I have one record left that I owe a major label, then I will never be seen in a situation like this again. If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal. Come see the show and buy a T-shirt if you like it. I would put out a nicely packaged merchandise piece, if you want to own a physical thing. And it would come out the day that it's done in the studio, not this 'Let's wait three months' bulls---.
Hello everyone. I've waited a LONG time to be able to make the following announcement: as of right now Nine Inch Nails is a totally free agent, free of any recording contract with any label. I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate. Look for some announcements in the near future regarding 2008. Exciting times, indeed.
In a posting on nin.com on November 20, 2007, Reznor explained that the launch of remix.nin.com that was supposed to accompany the release of Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D and all Year Zero multitracks had been delayed due to a legal hitch caused by Universal:
My former record company and current owner of all these master files, Universal, is currently involved in a lawsuit with other media titans Google (YouTube) and News Corp (MySpace). Universal is contending that these sites do not have what is referred to as “safe harbor” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and therefore are in copyright violation because users have uploaded music and video content that is owned by Universal. Universal feels that if they host our remix site, they will be opening themselves up to the accusation that they are sponsoring the same technical violation of copyright they are suing these companies for. Their premise is that if any fan decides to remix one of my masters with material Universal doesn’t own – a “mash-up”, a sample, whatever – and upload it to the site, there is no safe harbor under the DMCA (according to Universal) and they will be doing exactly what MySpace and YouTube are doing. This behavior may get hauled out in court and impact their lawsuit. Because of this they no longer will host our remix site, and are insisting that Nine Inch Nails host it. In exchange for this they will continue to let me upload my Universal masters and make them available to fans, BUT shift the liability of hosting them to me. Part of the arrangement is having user licenses that the fans sign (not unlike those on MySpace or You Tube) saying they will not use unauthorized materials. If they WERE to do such a thing, everybody sues everybody and the world abruptly ends.
While I am profoundly perturbed with this stance as content owners continue to stifle all innovation in the face of the digital revolution, it is consistent with what they have done in the past. So… we are challenged at the last second to find a way of bringing this idea to life without getting splashed by the urine as these media companies piss all over each other's feet. We have a cool and innovative site ready to launch but we’re currently scratching our heads as to how to proceed.
More to come?
The full post can be read here
In late 2008 Trent Reznor revealed he was planning to film the last handful of shows in 3D for a DVD and theatrical release with director James Cameron. He also revealed that due to issues with funding and producing he was unable to fit filming into the schedule and dates at such short notice, after recovering the project and finding alternate support. Although Interscope was not mentioned in the nin.com blog revealing this, it is widely accepted that the company is that referred to it holds the rights to the majority of Nine Inch Nails material and has an almost infamous reputation with fans for refusing and delaying projects in the past, such as the launch of remix.nin.com.
File this one under lost opportunities.
I'm very proud of the show we've put together for this tour and have been working hard the last few months to find a way to capture it. I had an amazing situation lined up that would have allowed me to film the show in 3D with James Cameron's team for a theatrical release as well as DVD / BluRay, etc. We had an extra date added to the tour that we were going to give away all the tickets for and have a filming party / thank you show.
I made two critical mistakes. One was to approach a certain record company that owns some of the song rights about producing / funding. The second was to allow said company to fuck around as usual for months before saying um... no. We then achieved the impossible by finding alternate production / funding but the timetable is too rushed to get it filmed comfortably with the remaining time left on the tour. This tour and a lot of the personnel involved finish at the end of this leg, so we can't push filming into Jan / Feb.
This was an amazing tour and production - certainly the best thing I've ever been involved with and likely the final tour for NIN on this scale. Thank you to those who came out to see it and forgive me for having a Kanye West moment, but this was FOR SURE the best show of the year and any bullshit end-of-the-year poll you may read in the next few weeks that says otherwise simply has it wrong. Those of you who saw it know I'm right.
The shows we have announced in 2009 and any more that may be announced will be a completely different approach with some different personnel and will likely be the last for the foreseeable future.