Sub Pop

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Sub Pop is a record label founded by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Washington in 1986. Sub Pop achieved fame in the late 1980s for first signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and many other bands from the Seattle music scene.[1] They are often credited with taking the first steps toward popularizing grunge music, and have continued to achieve critical and commercial success in the new millennium, with popular bands such as Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service, Flight of the Conchords, No Age, Wolf Parade and The Shins on their roster. In 1995 Poneman sold a 49% stake of the label to Warner Bros. Records.[2]




Sub Pop began not as a record label but as a fanzine created by Bruce Pavitt in the early 1980s called Subterranean Pop. Pavitt worked on the fanzine, which focused exclusively on American independent record labels, to earn course credit while attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. By the fourth issue, Pavitt shortened the name to Sub Pop and began alternating issues with compilation tapes of underground rock bands. The Sub Pop #5 cassette, released in 1982, sold two thousand copies.[3] In 1983, Pavitt moved to Seattle, Washington and released the ninth and final issue of Sub Pop. While in Seattle, he wrote a column for local newspaper The Rocket titled "Sub Pop U.S.A.", a column he ended in 1988.[4][5]

In 1986, Pavitt released the first Sub Pop LP, the compilation Sub Pop 100, which featured material by artists including Sonic Youth, Naked Raygun, Wipers, and Scratch Acid. Seattle group Green River chose to record their Dry as a Bone EP for Pavitt's new label in June 1986; Pavitt couldn't afford to release it until the following year. When finally released, Dry as a Bone was promoted by Sub Pop as "ultra-loose grunge that destroyed the morals of a generation".[6] Also in 1987, Jonathan Poneman provided $20,000 in funding for Sub Pop to release the debut Soundgarden single "Hunted Down"/"Nothing to Say" in July 1987, followed by the band's first EP Screaming Life that October.[7] Poneman soon became a full partner in the label. Pavitt focused on the label's A&R aspects, while Poneman dealt with the business and legal issues.[8] Both men decided they wanted the label to focus on "this primal rock stuff that was coming out," according to Pavitt.[9]

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