Sub Pop holds one of the most remarkable success stories in US indie label history. Initially beginning life as a fanzine set up by co-founder Bruce Pavitt in the early 80s, Sub Pop would go on to be credited as the ones responsible for making grunge the world’s most popular rock n’ roll sub-genre a decade later.

In 1987, one year after making Sub Pop into a fully-formed label, Pavitt was joined by Jonathan Poneman. Together they were able to finance the release of Soundgarden’s debut single Hunted Down/Nothing To Say which would go on to be followed by the Screaming Life EP a few months later.

Inspired by the “primal rock stuff that was coming out” from within the local scene along with studying independent labels that worked on a strong regional basis such as Motown and SST, Pavitt and Poneman went about focusing their attention on bringing the “Seattle Sound” to a larger audience. This ambition was largely achieved shortly afterwards via the creation of the “Sub Pop Singles Club” which helped keep up a steady cash flow. The first release as part of this concept was the single Love Buzz from the (then) little-known Aberdeen band Nirvana.

Being well aware that generating attention from the US mainstream music press was difficult for even the biggest of independent labels, Sub Pop decided to have a crack at impressing the UK music press. Inviting Melody Maker’s Everett True over to Seattle to write an article on the local scene, it soon became clear that the grunge sound was exactly the kind of thing needed to re-energise the tastes of Britain’s musical youth. In late ’89, Sub Pop bands Mudhoney, Nirvana and Tad went on tour together around the UK and across different parts of Europe. This was the turning point that signaled grunge as being much more than a local underground phenomenon.

Sensing the massive impact that grunge could have on the music world, Geffen Records were able to snap up Nirvana from Sub Pop. As part of the deal with Geffen, Sub Pop received a healthy financial injection which would help keep the label afloat for many years afterwardsWith grunge now firmly embedded within the mainstream courtesy of Nirvana’s Nevermind, it was unclear whether or not Sub Pop as a label would go the same way. Looking to take advantage of this new wave of alternative rock, Warner approached Sub Pop with regard to taking up a 50% stake of the company. Keen on the idea of making the label larger and subsequently bringing in more money, Poneman agreed to the move. Pavitt, not so keen, left shortly after the deal with Warner was agreed.

Sub Pop carries on strong to this day. Whether or not this would have been achieved without Warner is debatable. Regardless, Sub Pop has unearthed some of the finest alternative sounds in recent memory. Bands such as The Postal Service, The Shins and Fleet Foxes have gone on to reach high levels of both critical and commercial success as a result of being associated with Sub Pop. More recently, Sub Pop legends Mudhoney released their eighth studio album Vanishing Point on the label. In support of the new record, Mudhoney have just completed a tour with one of Sub Pop’s newest acts, Canadian noise punks METZ. Having caught the Glasgow show a few weeks ago, I believe I’m safe in saying that Sub Pop will have many more of these unofficial showcases to come in future years.