When Nirvana singer and lead songwriter Kurt Cobain died in 1994, his widow, rocker Courtney Love, became the primary beneficiary of his estate, which includes more than ninety-eight percent of the band’s publishing rights. Band members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were left with part of the remainder. Now Love tells Rolling Stone that she has finally sold twenty-five percent of her share of Nirvana’s sought-after publishing catalog — to Larry Mestel of Primary Wave Music Publishing, former COO/GM of Virgin Records.
“I took on a strategic partner, Larry Mestel, to help me co-manage the estate because it was overwhelming,” Love explains. “The affairs of Nirvana are so massive and so huge, and they’ve all fallen on my lap. I own almost all of [the publishing], . . . and it proved to be too much for me. I needed a partner to take Kurt Cobain’s songs and bring them into the future and into the next generation. And this guy’s the guy to do it.”
Mestel says his three-month-old company, Primary Wave, is thrilled to have bought into an American musical legacy. “The appeal to me is that [Kurt was] one of the most important songwriters of his time,” Mestel says. “Kurt was an incredible songwriter, and Courtney is an exceptionally talented person herself. So I felt the combination of Courtney’s creativity and the things I can add can really help in creating more value for these copyrights.”
Though Love and Mestel declined to comment on specifics, a source close to the deal tells Rolling Stone that Mestel has likely paid in excess of $50 million for the rights.
Exactly what the partnership will mean for the life of Nirvana’s music — including the Nineties hits “Come As You Are” and “All Apologies” — is unclear. Thus far, the tracks have been notably absent from corporate ad campaigns and blockbuster action-movie soundtracks. The new partners are already eager to curb speculation that any of the generation-defining songs might end up in, say, a deodorant ad.
“We’re going to remain very tasteful, and we’re going to [retain] the spirit of Nirvana and take Nirvana places it’s never been before,” says Love. “My goal is to keep the music very true to who the songwriter was and what his passions and tastes would be,” Mestel adds, “and to work through Courtney to figure out exactly the best way to go about exposing his music to a new youth culture to a new generation.”
In other news, Love says she has entered into another partnership — a musical one, with New York-based electronic artist Moby. According to Love, Moby has agreed to co-produce the follow-up to her 2004 effort, America’s Sweetheart, which Linda Perry is also at work on. The two met up when Love was in New York last week, and ended up spending a night out with Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and Michael Stipe.
“A long time ago, Moby was Christian, and I had this fantasy I was Mary Magdalene and he was Jesus. I’ve always had a little crush on him,” says Love. “And I trust him. I’ll talk all sort of shit, and he’ll keep trying to focus me back on the music.”