Sub Pop Records
Year Established: 1986 Genre Focus: Grunge, Indie, Hip-Hop Website: www.subpop.com
What began originally in 1986 as a fanzine called Subterranean Pop has since evolved into one of the most iconic independent record labels in U.S. history. The 'zine was originally created to focus exclusively on stories about American independent record labels. By the fourth issue, founder Bruce Pavitt had shortened the name down to just Sub Pop, and began including compilation tapes of underground rock bands along with the print release. Sub Pop had a rather short run as a periodical and lasted only nine issues, but the ideas it helped birth would shift the landscape of music forever.
Pavitt and co-founder Jonathan Poneman got their first taste of the business in the late '80s after signing a series of Seattle-based bands that included Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Mudhoney. The label released Soundgarden's first single, a split record called "Hunted Down" / "Nothing to Say," in 1987 and their debut EP the same year. They followed that up with the release of Nirvana's debut single, "Love Buzz," in 1988. It was because of this early work that Sub Pop has widely been credited with helping to popularize grunge music at the time.
In addition to their legendary signings, the label also pioneered a number of recording and marketing tactics that are still used by independent labels today. Their strategy of pressing and releasing a limited number of early singles to generate demand, and their uniform recording techniques and conistent use of producer Jack Endino across multiple artists, helped to create the regional "Seattle Sound," which their bands became so famously known for. As the years have passed, Sup Pop has remained a relevant via their work with popular, cutting edge artists, like Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Flight of the Conchords, Foals, The Postal Service, Shabazz Palaces, The Shins, and Washed Out.