Sub Pop had something special on their hands with Nirvana, and it only took them $600 dollars to lock down a contract with the band. The influential Seattle label posted their original contract with Nirvana on Tumblr.
Though the document isn’t dated, it lists the early Nirvana lineup of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic (listed as Chris), Chad Channing and Jason Everman. The agreement lays out an initial one-year term starting on January 1st, 1989, and ending on December 31st of that year, with options for two subsequent years through 1991. The contract specifies a $600 advance for the initial one year term, with a $12,000 advance for the first option year and a $24,000 advance for the second. Lines are drawn through the areas reserved for a third option year.
The contract notably demands three complete album-length master tapes, requiring one for the initial term and another for each of the option years. Sub Pop released Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, in 1989 before Nirvana jumped to DGC for the 1991 release of Nevermind. Sub Pop notes on their website that they received a buyout for Nirvana’s contract from Geffen, plus royalties on future albums, in a deal that pushed their finances “out of the red and into the black.”