Sub Pop turned 28 years old last week. They celebrated on April Fools Day. Far from a joke at a time in the music industry when things can feel a little bleak for some artists and labels, in relation to how music is now seen as a free commodity by some, knowing they are going strong at 28 is certainly a good reason to celebrate.
Founded in 1988 by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman Sub Pop became as synonymous with the grunge movement as Sun Records with Elvis and Johnny Cash. Sub Pop have subsequently grown to be a much more diverse label, signing the mighty Flight of the Conchords, The Postal Service, Sleater-Kinney, Clipping, Mirel Wagner and Lyla Fox, alongside the influential Nirvana, Tad and Mudhoney. The newer Father John Misty album was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of last year, with sold out gigs on both sides of the Atlantic. They now have a record shop at the airport.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Sub Pop office two years ago, easily one of many highlights of my Seattle trip. A busy productive office, it also feels like an archive documenting what Pavitt and Poneman started, and what they, with supporters, employees and artists have nurtured and developed over the years with framed posters, discs, graffiti and photographs adorning the walls. They are proud of what they have achieved and rightly so.
Happy Birthday Sub Pop!
“Sub Pop turns 28” is part one of an irregular series celebrating independent record labels. Next up Merge Records!