The Production Project: Contextual Research and Market Analysis Task: Labels, Scenes and Collectives

I’ve chosen to take a look at the grunge scene in Seattle between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Major acts associated with the Seattle grunge scene are Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and the Melvins. As mentioned above the grunge scene was predominantly based in America’s Pacific north-west, particularly in the state of Washington’s capital city, Seattle. Seattle was the home of Sub-Pop records, who are widely recognised as the responsible party in fostering the burgeoning grunge movement by being the first to sign Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney.

The dominant sound of grunge, as described by music journalist Charles R Cross, is a distortion-filled, down-tuned and riff-based rock that uses loud electric guitar feedback and heavy, “ponderous” bass lines to support its song melodies. The genre is something of a hybridisation of heavy metal and punk rock.

The reason I find this scene so interesting is that it defies the expectations of what a musician should be. As opposed to the hair and glitter, the highly polished musical offerings and virtuosic musicianship that came before, grunge was often considered sludgy, dark, messy and a little dirty. The indifference that performers held in consideration to mastering their instruments, the rawness and introspectiveness of the music and lyrics, and, it must be said, the lifestyle, all fascinated me when I first discovered this scene. For a long time, I was influenced by the way they dressed and thought and the nihilism this genre instilled in me continues to this day. This scene was a defining step in my musical development.

 Independent Labels

Sub-Pop – Founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt, Sub-Pop was generally considered a grunge label. However, as of today, the label is home to a variety of artists ranging from Foals to Flight of the Conchords.

4AD – Founded in 1980 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, 4AD was a forerunner in the gothic music scene. They signed Bauhaus, the Cocteau Twins and the Pixies. As of today, the label is considered an indie giant, their most notable artists over the last decade being St. Vincent and Bon Iver.

Hopeless Records – Founded in 1994 by Louis Posen, Hopeless Records and best known for their wide range of pop-punk and metal artists. Notable members include All Time Low, Avenged Sevenfold, Tonight Alive and Neck Deep.

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