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World Domination: The Sub Pop Story, A Modest Review
World Domination: The Sub Pop Story, A Modest Review

World Domination: The Sub Pop Story, A Modest Review

Jonathan Poneman Sub Pop, Bruce Pavitt Sub Pop

Labels & Publishing

English spoken


Exclusive Keynote interview with Jonathan Poneman & Bruce Pavitt by Everett True: ‘World Domination: The Sub Pop Story, A Modest Review’.
Sub Pop is a record label founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman. Sub Pop achieved fame in the early 1990s for signing Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, central players in the grunge movement. They are often credited with helping popularize grunge music. The label's roster includes Fleet Foxes, Beach House, The Postal Service, Sleater-Kinney, Flight of the Conchords, Foals, Blitzen Trapper, Father John Misty, clipping, Shabazz Palaces, Bully, METZ, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, TV Priest and The Shins. In 1995, the owners of Sub Pop sold a 49% stake of the label to the Warner Music Group.

The origins of Sub Pop can be traced back to the early 1980s, when Bruce Pavitt started a fanzine called Subterranean Pop that focused exclusively on American independent record labels. Pavitt undertook the project in order to earn course credit while attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. By the third issue, Pavitt had shortened the name to Sub Pop and began alternating issues with compilation tapes of underground rock bands. The Sub Pop #5 cassette, released in 1981, sold two thousand copies. 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.

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". Also in 1987, Jonathan Poneman provided $ 2.000,- 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. Poneman soon became a full partner in the label. Pavitt focused on the label's artists and repertoire aspects, while Poneman dealt with the business and legal issues. Both men decided they wanted the label to focus on "this primal rock stuff that was coming out," according to Pavitt.


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    Jonathan Poneman Sub Pop

    Jonathan Poneman signed Soundgarden, Nirvana, The Shins, Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, Sleater Kinney, Built to Spill, Beach House, Father John Misty, Flight of the Conchords and Clipping to Sub Pop Records. He did so with able assistance, but did so nonetheless. And there are more!
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    Bruce Pavitt Sub Pop

    Bruce Pavitt (born March 7, 1959) is an American music historian, critic, DJ, speaker, author, and founder of the Sub Pop record label. In 1980, Pavitt started an indie-rock fanzine, Sub Pop, which focused on regional music scenes around America. The zine then evolved into cassette compilations, and then further evolved into the Sub Pop record label, based in Seattle. Bruce joined forces with Jonathan Poneman in 1987, when they collaborated on the “Screaming Life” EP by Soundgarden. Their business then became a full-time job when the Sub Pop Records corporation opened its office doors on April 1, 1988. Bruce is most famous for helping to frame and market the Grunge music phenomenon in the early 1990s by helping to build a compelling narrative of the Seattle music scene in the international press that captured the world’s imagination. Bruce Pavitt is currently the CEO of Modify Music, a music software company that specializes in interactive music.


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    Everett True

    Dr Jerry Thackray holds a PhD in Music Journalism and has been a freelance music critic for nearly 40 years. He has edited, published and written for numerous magazines and websites in the UK, US and Australia, including Melody Maker, NME, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, MOJO, Classic Rock and Plan B Magazine. He currently teaches at BIMM Institute London, where he is a Course Leader in Marketing and Communications. He is best-known as Everett True, “the man who invented grunge”, the critic Kurt Cobain once called “the biggest rock star journalist in the world”. Jerry has written several books on rock music (Nirvana, Ramones, The White Stripes) and, under his stage name The Legend!, released the first record on Creation Records. Nick Cave described The Legend!’s onstage performance as being “more entertaining than Nina Simone”.