NIRVANA Was Only Worth $600 in 1989

I know Nirvana isn’t exactly Metal, and I’m the first to admit that I can’t stand them. However, as a product of music business I can’t help but be intrigued by the following piece of info, thanks to a recent story on hypebot.

When Nirvana was in their infancy in 1989, they signed their first recording contract with Sub-Pop….and got a mere $600 in recoupable advances for the first year, with two additional option years. The interesting thing here is that there was such a jump in recoups for the first option year, from $600 up to $12,000. During the second option year, it went up to $24,000. Why such a big jump?

It’s unclear as to whether the initial $600 was used to record their first album, but I’m guessing it wasn’t since the cost of recording a full length album using 1989 technology would have well exceeded $600. Perhaps the label had a deal worked out with the studio and producer, who knows.

The point I’m getting at here is that on the independent level (and even on the major level at times), a band should not expect a whole lot at first. They have to prove their worth and usually must endure some form of suffering in order to attain that success they crave. The notion that getting signed automatically means the big bucks couldn’t be further from the truth. They might believe in you enough to sign you, but that doesn’t mean they believe you deserve thousands of dollars based on the merit of the music. They want to see that album sell, which is even harder today and we all know the reason why. Right?

It’s true that bands have to work hard and endure suffering just to get that first record deal, but they have to work even harder once they get that deal. Especially these days when labels don’t want to invest time and money to develop an artist, a band has to pretty much create their own buzz and develop their own sound. The cream always rises, and I’ve seen it happen many times. Good things come to those who wait….and good things definitely came for Nirvana.

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