Bruce Pavitt

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Bruce Pavitt
Born (1959-03-07) March 7, 1959 (age 56)
Origin Olympia, Washington, U.S.
Genres Indie
Occupation(s) Founder
Years active 1980–1996
Labels Sub Pop

Bruce S. Pavitt (born March 7, 1959) is the Chicago-born founder of record label Sub Pop.


Bruce Pavitt was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, the second of six kids to Robert and Ruth Pavitt. After a happy childhood, Pavitt moved from Illinois to Washington State to attend Evergreen State College in Olympia. Once there, he immediately started an indie radio show called Subterranean Pop on KAOS-FM in fall of 1979. In 1980, he started a zine of the same name, the first to focus specifically on small label, independently released American records. Three cassette compilations were released through the fanzine.

In 1983, Pavitt moved to Seattle and started a record store, Fallout, as well as writing a Sub Pop column for The Rocket, and hosting an independent-label specialty show on KCMU. 1986 saw the release of Sub Pop's (the "-terranean" was dropped earlier from the name) first LP: the Sub Pop 100. Green River's Dry As a Bone EP followed in 1987.

Pavitt initially met Jonathan Poneman in 1986, when Poneman invited Pavitt for an on-air interview on KCMU, to promote Sub Pop 100. In 1987, Kim Thayil of Soundgarden suggested that the two join forces. Pavitt and Thayil had both attended Rich East High School in Park Forest, Illinois in the mid-1970s. Subsequently Soundgarden's Screaming Life EP was released, and the grunge phenomenon quickly followed.

He is also credited with signing Nirvana to Sub Pop. He became a multimillionaire from this move. In 1996, Pavitt parted company with Sub Pop records. Contributing factors in his decision to leave are reported to have been disagreements between Pavitt and fellow Sub Pop partner Johnathan Poneman on the direction of the label's future; also, the unease Pavitt felt with the change in business environment following the selling of 49% of Sub-Pop's shares to Warner Bros Records.

In 2012 Bruce released "Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989" which tells the tale of three bands, Nirvana, Mudhoney and TAD, as they traveled through Europe over an 8-day span in 1989. The book starts with the historic breakup of Nirvana at the Piper Club in Rome to the successful Lamefest UK showcase in London. Pavitt teamed up with Apple Computers and technology expert Dan Burke to make this book available via Apple's iBookstore. The book launched November 13, 2012 with notable media attention. A hardcover version of the book, which also included additional photos from LameFest by Steve Double, was released by Bazillion Points in December of 2013.

In November of 2014, he released "Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988", a collection of his early Sub Pop zines and Rocket magazine columns. Additional essays by Calvin Johnson, Ann Powers, Larry Reid, Gerard Cosloy and Charles R. Cross are included, as well as photos by Charles Peterson and Michael Lavine. This is also published by Bazillion Points.

In 2014, Pavitt joined with technologist Adam Farish to develop 8Stem, a company which has developed an interactive digital music format.

Bruce currently lives on Orcas Island, WA. He keeps engaged in music by periodically speaking at conferences and festivals, consulting with artists and music labels, and as a DJ.

Bruce Pavitt on Orcas Island in 2012.

See also[edit]


The Seattle Tattler #2. "Counting the Cobainbuck$". Belltown Messenger, February 2005.

"Enter Space Buddha," City Arts, Seattle, January 2012.

Monster Fresh

The Seattle Times

The Seattle Weekly



Rolling Stone

Entertainment Weekly

Fast Company

CBS News

External links[edit]