Two summers ago, I was the New Media intern at TVT Records, an independent label with a big, poster-riddled loft office in NoHo on Lafeyette and 4th St. that has been the home for a bizarre collection of artists, some great and some very forgettable. Yesterday, news broke that the company has filed for Chapter 11, which isn't that surprising and really not very tragic. The real news, for me, is that supposedly most of the employees were laid off. The experience was pretty great and I actually really liked the people that worked there, especially compared to the people I met at my previous label internship the summer before at Island/Def Jam. Looking back the internship at TVT could have ] been a lot more beneficial for me if I had taken more advantage of both the actual hands-on experience and the people that worked there. I never really talked to anyone and just sat in the closet-turned-office that I shared with a guy (whose name I forget, but he was chill) who was like some sort of NYC drum'n'bass promoter/expert. If it had been the summer of '07 instead of '06 I probably would have made a lot more friends. But then again, they all would have been fired a few months later!
In a new post he made today, Tom Breihan (I swear I'm not a stan) goes through some of the better albums that TVT has put out over the years and in the process gives a pretty thorough history of the lamented label, one that it probably doesn't even deserve because, like he says, the label never really had a clear identity and thus never offered the music world any defining artistic contribution. They didn't pioneer either industrial or crunk music, they just put it out after both movements had gone through their indie infancies in their respective regions. What he doesn't mention though, and what stuck out most to me while I was there, was the amount of purely laughable products this company put out. While I was there, the big push was behind a Ying Yang Twins side project called Da Muzicians that was made up of one of the dudes from YYT and his brothers or cousins or something like that. Truly embarrassing and unlistenable garbage with retarded singles that never had even a whisper of buzz. There were crappy alt-metal bands like Bobaflex, lame pitchfork-indie bandwagoneers like The Cinematics and The Holloways, some weird danish '60s revivalists called The Blue Van and, of course, The Towers of London, who really took the cake. I can't even begin to describe how shitty this band was, but they had this kind of strange affability and I actually liked them, even though I knew they were the worst Sex Pistols/Motley Crue make-up rock mashup in the world. They had a big following of mostly English girls and supposedly put on a crazy live show. I just uploaded ridiculous videos of them fucking around with little kids and getting in fights with drunk soccer hooligans to YouTube.
Around the same time, TVT put out an album by their Memphis rapper Yo Gotti, who's actuallly a pretty good rapper who has never made it out of the underground despite being on TVT and having appearances from Bun B, 8Ball, Jazze Pha and even Lil Wayne and Birdman (!) on his album Back 2 Da Basics. I have a feeling he was a victim of the same fate that Pitbull complained about, that is, never being cleared for any guest spots or features, which can kill a dude like that who basically only had a Gangsta Grillz and hometown following to build his buzz on. Also at the same time, Lil Jon came out with a new single called "Snap Yo Fingers," a track that was not only ubiquitous in the office all summer but became something of a smash club hit. I spent the summer updating these artists' myspace pages and sending out innocuous bulletins like "Check Out New Pictures of Pitbull!!" and "The Cinematics Live Footage added to indieshows.com!!!"
While the focus of the label definitely was all over the place, and some of the bands sucked really bad, I have no evidence or really any knowledge of their business practices. A lot has been said of owner Steve Gottlieb's shadiness, but I only shared an elevator ride once with the guy. What I do know, though, is that the New Media department did some pretty incredible work. While I was there we were absolutely killing the myspace game at the very height of the site's influence. Lil Jon, especially, was a phenomenon on there, and the guy actually was very involved with updating his pages and promoting "Snap Yo Fingers." He used to send dozens and dozens of photos every week to be uploaded onto his Web site and myspace page while he was out in Vegas working on his album Crunk Rock, WHICH STILL HASN'T COME OUT!!! By the way, the Drum'n'Bass dude whose office I sat in the whole summer is responsible for those artists' sites linked above, and every single page he constructed while I was there was truly dope. Myspace pages that were so much iller than anyone else's, crazy home pages with all sorts of interactivity and cool shit on them. What I'm saying is, I don't know what happened with this label, but it definitely was not the internet promotion.
I do have to call Breihan out on his eulogy of a post, though. Saying "1985-2008" is going a little too far. They might have fired everyone but I'd be willing to bet that the label is NOT dead and gone. Maybe Steve should get a "TVT AIN'T DEAD" chain.