Los Angeles--The success of Nine Inch Nails may be opening the door to mainstream
acceptance for other once-underground industrial-styled acts.
"The Downward Spiral", the second full-length album by the act, which essentially is
Trent Reznor's one-man band, debuted at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 (Billboard, March
26, 1994), and SoundScan reports that as of March 20, the album had sold 188,000
copies. This week, the release is at No. 12.
This follows NIN's earlier success, "Pretty Hate Machine." That album, the act's 1989
debut, stands at No. 35 on the Top Pop Catalog after 29 weeks. Since January 1991, when
SoundScan began tracking sales, the 1989 title has sold more than 1 million copies.
"Broken," NIN's 1992 EP, reached No. 7 on The Billboard 200 and has sold more than
645,000 copies to date, according to SoundScan data.
"Industrial used to be a subterranean or an underground category," says Al Wilson, senior
VP of merchandising, for the 143-store Strawberries chain in Milford, Mass. "Now,
similar to the way grunge has gotten accepted, industrial has found its way into the
The genre, which takes its name from the foundry-like blasts of noise featured in the
music, has been lurking on the fringe of rock mainstream for nearly two decades.
Pioneering works, which receiving almost no commercial response at the time, included
Lou Reed's 1975 album "Metal Machine Music" and early-'80's albums by the U.K. band
In the '80s, Chicago-based independent label Wax Trax! and Vancouver, British
Columbia's Nettwerk were the chief purveyors of industrial, but their biggest acts,
Ministry and Skinny Puppy, respectively, remained cult artists.
It wasn't until Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine" that the genre became a serious
Judy Neubauer, retail advertising and promotions coordinator for the 16-store,
Chatsworth, Calif-based Tempo Records web, says NIN has done extremely well at the
chain. At a midnight sale at Tempo's Northridge store, the new NIN album outsold
Says Neubauer, "There's been a huge buzz. Everyone was waiting for Reznor's second
Neubauer says a big part of industrial's move toward the mainstream has been airplay on
modern rock KROQ Los Angeles.
KROQ is one of 24 modern rock stations playing the NIN track "March of the Pigs." APD
Gene Sandbloom says "The Downward Spiral" "is going to be huge in L.A."
The station also is one of five modern rock stations playing "Closer", a second track from
the album. Those stations have even gone out of their way to edit the track, which
contains explicit lyrics, to make it suitable for airplay.
Mike Hallotran, MD/afternoon personality at modern rock XTRA (91X) San Diego,
credits Nine Inch Nails with bringing industrial to the mainstream. "The word industrial is
pretty off putting for some people," he says. "What Trent does is make pop songs that
sound industrial. He takes a great pop song and destroys it, much the same way the Jesus
& Mary Chain use feedback."
At KNDD (the End) Seattle, MD Marco Collins reports that Nine Inch Nails is a hot
commodity. "At our station, the thing is going crazy," he says. KNDD is playing "March
of the Pigs" more than 17 times a week, while "Closer" was the No. 2 most requested
song at the station the week of March 14.
Collins adds that other industrial acts, ranging from Machines of Loving Graces to
Ministry, also have been well-received at the station. "Maybe the masses are coming
around to what the core has known all along," Collins adds.
Modern rock KITS (Live 105) San Francisco director of music operations Steve Masters
notes that adding industrial to the mix gives the station an aggressive edge. "When we
play a song in the industrial vein, people respond positively," he adds.
While Nine Inch Nails may be breaking down barriers at radio, not every industrial act is
benefiting. TVT Records is having some difficulty working tracks by KMFDM and Sister
"Right now we are up against Nine Inch Nails," says TVT national director of promotion
Jim McNeil. "Even though programmers understand that there is a huge fan base for
industrial, they only have one slot for it. They pigeonhole it into nighttime rotation, and
often add it reluctantly. Their hands are forced because of the tremendous sales and phone
NO INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Another industrial act that has made inroads in the last few years is Ministry, whose 1992
album "Psalm 69" reached No. 27 on The Billboard 200 and went on to sell more than
634,000 copies. That act, however, remains largely an after-dark phenomenon. Says
KROQ's Sandbloom, "Ministry's "N.W.O." is the quintessential nighttime KROQ
Like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry is an alumnus of Lollapalooza. NIN was part of the
festival's debut line-up in 1991, while Ministry was a featured act in 1992.
"When booking Lollapalooza, we knew that industrial was a vital, important form of
alternative music and that it should be exposed," he says. Geiger adds that NIN's exposure
on Lollapalooza helped pave the way for Ministry.
"When Nine Inch Nails finally broke, there was a lot of talk not only about them, but the
whole genre," Geiger says. "There was a lot of anticipation for Ministry, based largely on
the success of Nine Inch Nails."
Front 242, an industrial act featured on Lollapalooza '93, however, failed to reach a
broader audience and remains mostly an underground sensation.
American hopes to find success in the industrial market in August with the label debut
from recent signing Skinny Puppy, formerly licensed to Capitol in the U.S. via Nettwerk.
"The door is open," says Geiger. "If they make a good record, they will sell a lot more
than they have in the past."
Yet Geiger doesn't expect an industrial revolution. "I don't think it's a trend like rap,
where everyone is going to get in because the market is so big," he says.
BROADENING THE BASE
Those close to the industrial scene have mixed feelings about the genre's newfound
acceptance. Kim Traub, one of the staff of four that publishes Industrialnation, a fanzine
based in the Chicago area, notes that Reznor is on the cover of Musician, B-Side, and
CMJ. He's also a featured interview in the fanzine's next issue. "That's just the way the
business works," she says. "There's always going to be quibbing over who's alternative
and who's not."
Yet Traub sees a positive side, too. "It may be good to broaden the base of people that
listen to this kind of music."
Brian Perera, label manager of the Los Angeles-based independent label Cleopatra, which
has been specializing in industrial since opening in 1992, also sees positives to the
success of Nine Inch Nails. "Every other major label is going to be looking for their Nine
Inch Nails," Perera says. "Acts that normally wouldn't be looked at are definitely getting
looked at now. It's breaking a whole new door open for new acts."
The label, which has issued one "Industrial Revolution" CD sampler and a book of the
same name, is readying a second sampler.
"We're getting a free ride with Nine Inch Nails," Perera adds. "Magazines that wouldn't
have the least bit of interest in us are coming around. I guess everything has its time."