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Sub Pop Records Profile

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Sub Pop Records - The Basics:

  • What: Independent record label Sub Pop Records
  • Where: Seattle, Washington, USA
  • Founded by: Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman
  • Founded: 1986 officially, though arguably there were some releases before this date

Sub Pop's Fanzine Roots:

Sub Pop Records got its start not as a label but as a fanzine dedicated mostly to underground bands in the Northwestern US. The fanzine, Subterranean Pop or Sub Pop for short, was started by Bruce Pavitt in 1979, and alternated between releasing a print zine and releasing a cassette of Pavitt's favorite bands. Six zines and three cassettes later, Pavitt decided to skip the writing and release music exclusively, but the whole thing fell apart. Pavitt moved to Seattle, Washington, and the written word of Sub Pop got a new lease on life as column in a local Seattle newspaper.

1986 - A Label is (Officially) Born:

After relocating to Seattle, Pavitt flirted with record label-dom a little bit more, releasing the Sub Pop 100 compilation, made up of music from the cassette releases, and the Dry as a Bone EP by Green River .

These releases aside, the full fledge label was officially created in 1986, when Pavitt joined forces with Jonathan Poneman to release the EP of a friend's band, Soundgarden. The Screaming Life EP was a big success for Sub Pop, but nothing compared to what was to come.

Singles Clubs and Nirvana:

In 1988, Sub Pop started its much beloved Singles Club, through which members received a new single every month in exchange for a subscription fee, with the debut single by Nirvana. The rest, as they say, is music history. Nirvana became perhaps the biggest success story of any band from any indie label ever, and in fact, one of the most influential bands in music, period. Sub Pop rose to fame with Nirvana, Seattle became "the" music city and major labels began plucking bands from the underground (often disasterously, as it would turn out).

Don't Call Us Grunge:

Although Sub Pop will forever be associated with Nirvana and the grunge music craze that followed, they tend to take exception to being called a grunge label. When the label tells its own story, the line generally goes something like, "yes, we were there, but don't blame us." A look at the label's roster seems to confirm the story. In the wake of Nirvana, Sub Pop was releasing very different music, like Sunny Day Real Estate and Mudhoney.

Major Label Links:

While the majors were handing out contracts like candy to underground bands in the wake of the rise of Nirvana, they were also signing up labels to distribution deals. These sorts of things rarely ends well - just ask Matador - but during this period, Subpop signed a deal with Warner Music Group that lasts to this day. Warner owns 49% of Sub Pop, but this seems to be one of the rare occasions when an indie/major alliance has worked.

Sub Pop Artists:

Sub Pop has been the home to many big name artists over the years, and some bands have passed in and out the label's ranks. Not all Sub Pop artists were on the label in all territories - for instance, many Sub Pop bands have been on Domino in the UK. You can check out the full Sub Pop label stable here. Some of the most notable names are listed below:

Working for Sub Pop:

There are rarely job openings at Sub Pop, and those that come up usually get filled by word of mouth. If you are interested in working for the label, your best bet is to contact them and ask if there are any openings coming up and if you can send your resume. Their contact information is:

  • Sub Pop Records
  • 2013 4th Avenue, 3rd Floor
  • Seattle, WA
  • 98121

Although job opportunities are rare, Sub Pop does accept interns. They are looking for college students who need to complete internships for schools or people who are involved in the local music industry. To apply, send a resume to Sasham@subpop.com.

Sub Pop Demo Policy:

You can submit your demo to Sub Pop at the address listed above, but don't expect a swift response. They request that you not contact them to check up on your demo or send a demo via email. The Sub Pop website also has a caveat warning bands that they seldom sign bands on the basis of a demo alone. If you want to get their attention, play shows and build up a grass roots following.

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