Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 2010 ?

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Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 2010 ?

Post by PunkingtonGrunge »

So, been thinking about this for a while ... Do you guys think if Kurt or really anyone like him was around today making the same music, would they be popular ? it took them about 2/3 years to get recognised, i think, correct me if i'm wrong ... All music from the past (late 80's/90's grunge breakthrough etc) stays the same, but Kurt didn't die and he's still doing his thing and making awesome music. Let me know how you guys think society would feel about that ;)
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by Mystic »

In 2000 or 2005? Naah.

2013? Possibly. There's tons of dissatisfied-pseudointellectual-hipster-indie-full of emotions people out there.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by SKUNCHBAG »

I think Nirvana were popular because they were good, they had this "thing" going on and everybody felt it. I don't think it was a matter of when it all happened, but how it happened: Some guys come out of nowhere and rock the fuck out of everybody's heads. That's how it works to me. But I dunno.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by otherimprov »

SKUNCHBAG wrote:I think Nirvana were popular because they were good, they had this "thing" going on and everybody felt it. I don't think it was a matter of when it all happened, but how it happened: Some guys come out of nowhere and rock the fuck out of everybody's heads. That's how it works to me. But I dunno.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by P A I V »

No, and here's why:

The reason Nirvana was popular is because Sonic Youth was signed to Geffen in 1990, and they personally told David Geffen that he should sign Nirvana. The only reason that signing Nirvana was a viable business move is because Sonic Youth proved that some reasonably poppy yet noisy college rock music has an audience and that that audience is growing and has something to say. Nirvana then got signed and went on to change the face of music because:
1. There was no alternative way of getting music and therefore there was no alternate collective of people trading music at a large scale, meaning you HAD to buy an entire album if you wanted to hear it. This means that the college kids that listened to music, even though they were broke, had to shell out a bit of money to hear their favorite stuff. This of course meant that the music they were buying had to be something worth their money, because the majority of the initially intended demographic for Nirvana was something like "disillusioned and pissed off college kids who like catchy music"; arty, revolutionary-leaning kids who were thoroughly disgusted by the current tides of the music industry.
2. Their lead singer had an intricately constructed self image that he'd been developing since he was very young and utilized every podium he was at to show them who he was and what he felt. He was a force of personality that the mainstream media and music industry hadn't dealt with at this level, and so it gave off this image of heavy friction between the band and the media, which enticed everybody in a kind of proto-celebrity boom way.
3. They made music that was easy to listen to but dressed up in a way that gave people the illusion that it wasn't; a fairly ingenious paradox that Sonic Youth also had going on and a lot of post-punk stuff was going for as well. It made it so the people who initially were intended to listen to it unabashedly loved it, but that other, less engaged audiences would also really enjoy it as well because it was just something that was enthralling and enjoyable.
4. The music industry at the time had a lot of little bustling communities (like the Grunge community and whatever was happening in places like New York and Boston and D.C.), but the majority of what was happening was dehumanized trash that most people who paid any attention to human expression thought was worthless (much like what's going on now). A lot of people were angry enough to see Nirvana as some kind of oasis in a vast wasteland; a little beacon of truth and light midst a disgustingly coked-up haze of awful guitar solos and synths, terribly polished production, and banal subject matter.

They were in the right place at the right time as the right band with the right message. Nowadays, we are beckoning for a new Nirvana, but it will never happen again at any kind of monumental scale because the music industry is failing and becoming decentralized. Sonic Youth was signed because there was a fairly hip, forward-thinking, and interesting person who owned a label with enough money to put out things he thought could appeal to untested markets. He apparently owned a bunch of 7" punk records, which is why Kurt and Krist thought it'd probably be a safe bet to sign with them instead of something like Warner Brothers or Universal. Because everybody who wanted music had to pay for it, you could make a decent amount of money selling to punks, or goths, or just about any group of people who like music...meaning those college kids who were supposedly anti-establishment had to go to a Best Buy or, more truthfully to themselves, a small record shop to buy the music they wanted to hear. Geffen correctly realized that these small subcultures were growing and were ripe for the picking due to the disillusionment with the music industry after the awful, AWFUL 1980s mainstream, so he capitalized on it. I'm not sure if he thought he was changing the industry in particular, but I imagine he probably thought there was enough money to be made appealing to them where he'd spend a solid chunk of money on a few bands in that vein and see what happened. When Sonic Youth did well, Nirvana would probably also do pretty well. Then, they did really well because all of the people who'd been disillusioned also happened to be the most passionate people around, and so they loudly announced their support in the form of money and adulation...and so the music industry quickly took note and tried to hop on the wagon. Every Seattle band eventually got signed to a major label, every band with a tinge of grunge was signed, and the media/entertainment industries drained the concept as dry as possible before moving on to something more marketable after it was over.

The post-Grunge (not the genre) music industry is the reason that Grunge, and Nirvana, can never happen again. First, there was the creatively and conceptually bankrupt lingering of Post-Grunge bands that only people who'd listen to anything liked, along with other "alt rock" bands that effectively permutated into a really light, non-threatening shade of pale. There was also the rise of "boy bands" and other teen/adult contemporary music that proved easier to sell, create, and consume than any rock music previously was, along with "Gangster Rap" and other hip hop that had been around during (and before) Grunge that had still maintained its position due to the ubiquity of artists and consistent set of issues that they could write music about. And then, of course, Napster came around and effectively eradicated the entire demographic of teenage/college aged males from the music industry's purview almost immediately.

As everyone here surely knows, Grunge music didn't really last in the public light for a few reasons. First off, the image of a Grunge band was usually defined by a prevalent, volatile anti-everything frontman who, for the most part, wasn't lying in his position of being anti-industry or corporation or whatever. This means that the industry not only would have to deal with this asshole a lot, but they'd have to somehow create a campaign to sell their music around the idea that their lead singer/band thinks their own campaign is stupid and is ushering forth the wrong message. If the lead singer/band didn't have that personality, they usually were portrayed as if they did anyway, leading to any "true" fans of the artform thinking that that band was full of shit and therefore "sold out" (the worst thing you could say about a rock band, and the industry knew it), meaning record sales wouldn't be very good. This was really difficult to do and, most of the time, wasn't done successfully. One could argue that it wasn't done successfully because they were trying too hard to package the music as an easily digestible product - the complete opposite of what Grunge was all about - but the industry never pays any attention to the real basis of an artform, they pay attention to the ways they can extract money from its fanbase. In order to make money off of the fanbase, they had to make the fanbase predictable enough to accurately construct a highly successful sales campaign around it...and angry college kids aren't predictable enough to do that with. So, they stopped trying to appeal to the "true" fans and instead started trying to appeal to residual ones - ones who'd hear Candlebox and say "yeah, it's pretty good, I'll buy this album", even if they thought Pearl Jam was better. This meant that the artists - the Candleboxes and Creeds and Nickelbacks, who were probably all nice guys just trying to play music - were packaged and produced as Grunge even if they didn't want to be and were marketed to people who didn't actually really like Grunge for the reasons it was founded. It was a gigantic inconsistency festival that nobody was thrilled about:
- the record labels had to shave off the passionate roots of the fanbase and appeal to the same people they could sell shitty pop to, effectively ruining the entire "grassroots" campaign idea that the industry seemed to take a turn toward, with the original fans loudly and passionately proclaiming their disapproval with their product, which could very well warp the fans of this pseudo-angsty music into real angsty fans, making it so the industry loses even more money
- the real fans of Grunge had to deal with the "cultural phenomenon" of Grunge - the industrialization of the anti-industrial artform that they created specifically out of spite of the industry, infuriating them to no end and -- because they were the most passionate of all of the demographics the industry'd tried to appeal to: pissed off college kids -- inspiring the solidification of their anti-establishment tendencies and causing them to completely lose faith in the mainstream industry. They also had to deal with the new, fake fans of Grunge and all of the dendritic offshoots of the awful new polished version of their culture; surrounding them, a fundamentally disillusioned group of people, with an even larger group of people who "didn't get it" yet would loudly talk about how much they "got it".
- the new fans of Grunge were just procured from fandom of other genres and didn't really have much of a consequential affect on anything other than the fact they they'd have a more pronounced "angst" phase in high school/college where they'd be anti-something and yell at their parents for not getting them. Basically, they were the "lite", or shallow version of the initial fans of Grunge, who'd act accordingly to their shallowness and impulsively react to whatever the industry provided them. These people were the same people who'd have listened to Boston or Aerosmith, though, so they were now just senselessly enduring a phase of destructive and angry behavior because the industry was telling them to.
- the real Grunge bands now had to deal with the fact that they were being used as puppets for the industry they were against, as well as the fact that their music was now within rigid parameters rather than being a freely flowing instance of their own expression. They also had to deal with the loud, flagrant reporters and media trying to utilize them to sell their product (be it a magazine, TV show, or whatever), and with the culture's terrible results. The pressures were coming from every side, and the only thing they could do was keep playing their music under the rule of whoever was in charge, or quit.
- the "fake" Grunge bands had to deal with either being hated by a lot of people, being loved by the wrong people, or not being consequential in any way -- surely the worst fate for a guy who looked up to the force of personality that was Kurt Cobain. They also had to run through the artistic vacuum that was the current industry, and combined with the fact that they probably didn't have their own sound or message...they just did whatever they were told to do.

During Grunge's decline, there was the rise of Boy Bands and the expanding influence/ubiquity of hip hop music. Boy bands largely came to be because of the work of one man - a detestable, loathsome human being named Lou Pearlman who saw the success of New Kids on the Block and decided he'd try that. He formed a lot of boy bands - Nsync, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, LFO, Take 5, Natural, and US5 - with a strict formula designed entirely for profit. The groups were easy to manage, easy to produce, VERY easy to market, and easy to develop however they wanted. This was the total opposite of dealing with rock bands, and they made a lot more money...so they started to push forth the boy band and push back the idea of the rock band in an attempt to change the tides. Boy band members didn't make much money, but the managers, lawyers, and record companies made an exorbitant amount of money on them and realized that this business strategy was the best one they'd ever had. They decided to apply it to everything, and so they started to focus more on marketability and supplementary context rather than content...making every subsequent genre's marketing strategy a lot more bland and formulaic. This, of course, killed any artistic integrity that most of these heavily manicured and not-very-artistic musicians had in most cases, and put forth the completely artistically bankrupt and polished music that we all loathe to this day. Every bad pop song you hear on the radio today is there because of terrible boy band music. Hip hop was around at the same time and was a pretty striking median between boy-band and rock-band...a controversial and rowdy core with a lot of feel-good and fun peppered in there. The industry tried to downplay the negative sides of hip hop and play up the "good time" stuff; the musicality of it was polished a bit and the artists were signed primarily for their voices and whether or not the industry managers could handle them. Hip hop had a good run in the 90s - some really incredible stuff came out despite the soon-to-be-barren landscape the industry had at the time - but eventually the formulaic overtake the boy band initiated got rid of every single aspect of each genre that was pushed in the mainstream and replaced it with something easily calculable, easily consumed, and easily marketable. Every bad thing that the music industry currently is perpetuating is because of the boy band.

Finally, we have Napster. The Internet, in the beginning, wasn't really accessed by too many people. We're all here now and I can't imagine what it'd be like if I hadn't had its boundless sea of knowledge at my fingertips since I was 12, but back then it was a fairly small yet fledgling community-based space where people could go and exchange ideas. There had been messageboards and chats going on since the late 80s and early 90s, but only a very small group of people were using them at the time. These people were, predominantly, college kids who had to go and look for something they wanted because whatever was being presented to them was clearly not something of interest to them...the same kinds of people who liked Grunge music and any kind of genuine art. The computer eventually became more manageable, affordable, and less stigmatized as something only "nerds" use (kind of like glasses, now that I think about it), and so it gave a new rise to virtually everything humans had ever done. Communities with hundreds of people started forming, and those communities would talk about politics and philosophy and art and history just like any group of friends would on a place called the Usenet and eventually on BBSes (this forum is a BBS). From the congregation of minds, especially those with mathematical and scientific propensities, came a slew of programs designed to make the inter-communication of ideas possible between members of each group as well as from group to group. On Usenet, people could put files up and others could download them and view them. When CDs could be put onto a computer and have the files extracted from them, those files could then be put onto Usenet and people could then download them...meaning any album you bought in CD form was now one that every member of your community could have - much like the nature of trading bootlegs with your friends. This was the beginning of filesharing - but after a long time of doing it in smaller communities, people thought it was inefficient and wanted other methods. The idea of Peer to Peer (P2P) filesharing came up, and a couple of early instances were around in the late 90s. Eventually, one group honed the concept and emphasized its use for MP3 files. The program they developed was called Napster.

Napster, which operated from 1999 to 2001, came around similarly to the way Nirvana came around: it wasn't the original of its kind even if it claimed to be, but it was the right program at the right time geared toward the right people. The Internet at this point was becoming big enough to where a large portion of people, especially young people, were using it. Young people were broke, so they couldn't afford to go and buy all of those CDs that the music industry, which at this point was flagrantly and proudly pissing all over the faces of everyone with the decline of Grunge and rise of trite pop, was putting out. So, with this program, they could now go and listen to that Nirvana and Pearl Jam as well as stuff like Portishead and Aphex Twin or even obscure old folk stuff from the 50s without paying a dime for it. People are naturally greedy and will take as much as they can if something is free and its of no consequence to them...so they downloaded and downloaded and downloaded as much as they could get and listened to all of it without paying the industry a dime. The industry, which had already morphed even further into its form of a money-whoring monster, began to fight Napster and the Internet in general along with covering its own ass by cutting out the primary demographics who share files in case their strategy of shitting all over them their primary mode of attaining the music it puts out would fail. So now, we'd already seen the transition from rock (listened to by teen-aged and college-aged males, predominantly) to boy bands (listened to by pre-teen and teen aged girls, predominantly). This transition was heavily accelerated by the fact that rock music's primary demographic was the same exact demographic that was using Napster, and it had now become a completely unmarketable demographic...so they went full tilt into bad pop and only put out rock music if it already had an established following that wasn't in the 16-24 age bracket or if it could establish a following with older or younger males or females, who were always on the Internet but weren't nearly as predominant there as males were. This means that most new and unestablished Rock music was hopelessly relegated to the indie-label level forever afterwards. This, of course, means that Sonic Youth wouldn't be signed to a major label today, meaning Nirvana would never be signed today.

The culture has made a straight shot directly from the downfall of Napster in 2001 and the uprising of club-oriented and diner-oriented music's prevalence after boy-bands burnt themselves out. Grunge music is regularly brought up nostalgically, but only if it's one of the big 4 (mostly Pearl Jam or Nirvana) or if it had cultural significance. Hip hop music devolved into something more formulaic than boy-bands had been with the evolution of the Internet and of the large-scale sale of information (market research, primarily) that the Internet brought forth, and all other genres have evolved either into sterile marketability or niche appeal. Country is now just pop music with a slide-guitar; Hip hop that isn't about girls/cars/alcohol/weed is carefully marketed as if it is; Rock music is now only marketed if it has an established demographic and it is done so flagrantly and desperately for money; Electronic is warped whichever way it can be to follow current trends...etc etc. All of the other music that doesn't attempt at positioning itself in the mainstream does modestly well and enjoys being, for the most part, unrestricted by the higher-ups of whatever label they're on. They typically can't make a living off of their music, meaning they have to either get other jobs or tour year-round, providing some pretty cool stuff for all of us but a difficult and "real" life for all of them. There is no "god" of the industry anymore though - every group or artist you've heard on Pandora or Last.FM or wherever you get your new music from is probably on a mid-sized indie label or is self-published. Therefore, it is decentralized and there won't be one single source for all of your music, making it so that you have to utilize the Internet and your own intuition and knowledge of yourself to find the music you want rather than having it presented to you exactly as you want it. Nirvana was shown to people as a band that had a specific image and sound and was marketed that way...most indie labels just put the music out there and let the artist do whatever as long as it doesn't detriment the livelihood of the label. This means we're not going to see any iconoclastic, over-the-top artists unless the artists truly ARE that way - and if we do see them, they won't really have much affect on the overall landscape of the industry because there isn't one large body to shake anymore.

The mainstream industry is completely in shambles with novelty songs on indie labels like Harlem Shake and Gangnam style were in the top 40 last time I checked, Thrift Shop by Macklemore, an independent artist, being in the top 40 for 27 straight weeks and his other song being at number 1 for a few weeks, and artists like Rihanna, Bruno Mars, and Justin Bieber regularly just cycling through the charts because they are designed to do so. There really isn't anything to shatter or shake up anymore. Every artist that is designed carefully is devoid of the single thing that people identify most with: a sense of true self and a genuine sense of artistry. The industry decided to forgo the concept of genuineness when they realized that instant money is a lot more fun and easy to obtain than nurturing a profound and talented artist and exhibiting it to the masses, and has malnourished itself in the process. It's now a feeble, decaying, and regretful old man who can't even get himself hard enough to continue senselessly fucking the youth culture of the world...and art is being returned to the places it belongs: small rooms full of sincere people who enjoy art for art rather than for money. Sure, there will probably be another awful spike in money-whoring of art in the future with the Internet; probably in the form of internet-streaming becoming big and the decline of the TV industry with stuff like Netflix. I think though, at least for a little while, there will be a sincere and beautiful landscape for music that we'll all get to enjoy and participate in both as fans and as artists should we decide to do so. Some great stuff will come of it, along with some pretty bad stuff. I think that's a lot better than having one band succeed and shake up the culture for a little while: it's the culture forming itself into a more sustainable and pure entity.

Oh and also: Nirvana couldn't have worked now because they are the reason the industry is how it is now. Without having a Nirvana to have happened to create the landscape that killed rock, the industry would've been dramatically different as time bore on and we'd surely all be experiencing different circumstances right now. I wrote this post with the idea that a band exactly like Nirvana in their artistic integrity and message was the topic of discussion, because any other argument can't be made for or against the original post.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by evee103 »

^Greatest fucking thing I've read in a long time. Bravo!

With the shitfuckery that is mainstream music today, there's been an explosion of indie artists, and I don't think that's stopping anytime soon. People say there's no good music anymore. I disagree. I think that 1. you have to look hard and 2. I feel like what is out there now is the greatest stuff there has been in a looooooooong time. And why? Because no one cares about indie. Therefore, all of these artists can do what ever the fuck they want; and that's exactly what they have been doing. Creating music to create music. Creating music for themselves. And that's why it's becoming so great. They have no one to impress now, and 'making a living off music' isn't really a concept of our time anymore, so they genuinely make music for the love of it all. And that's why it sounds so fucking good. Or bad. It's genuine.

I suggest for everyone to check out:

Telepathic Butterflies
Mac Demarco
Ty Segall
The Guru(local band here!)
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by boxcar »

The question is unanswerable because Nirvana had such a huge impact on popular music that if you took them out of time and placed them in 2010 you have no idea what the music scene would be like per their absence.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by Scarabola »

I read the first three paragraphs and I thought that had enough info to get the host of what he's saying.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by duds »

you can talk about marketing and demographics all you want, but never underestimate the power of a great song.

if the grunge explosion had still happened but somehow Nirvana had not been part of it, I'm pretty sure they'd still make waves in today's industry on the strength of the music alone.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by P A I V »

duds wrote:you can talk about marketing and demographics all you want, but never underestimate the power of a great song.

if the grunge explosion had still happened but somehow Nirvana had not been part of it, I'm pretty sure they'd still make waves in today's industry on the strength of the music alone.
Smells Like Teen Spirit only did well because they released it and then the record label had people who called MTV and harassed them to play it at like, 6 AM. A great song will go far, but it will not go anywhere if it's not initially pushed. Out of Focus by Love Battery is a good example; it's the catchiest and most wonderful song ever, but it was never played on the radio and therefore had no impact. If Love Battery was pushed with the same gusto that Nirvana was, they'd be huge today...but they weren't because the record label they were on didn't try and do anything with them because they were too busy selling other, easier stuff because by the time they were ready to release Far Gone or Confusion Au Go Go, it was like 1997 and Grunge had already died down.

Back then, the industry WAS the barometer, and artists were essentially completely powerless. If you weren't on a major label, you had no hope of getting any exposure and so your songs, even if they were great and everyone would love them, would never go anywhere. Now that there's internet we can listen to anything we want at any time, but before that there was no service to present you the music you're looking for, there was only the radio. The radio is pretty much just an extension of the music industry, and so that's why you can turn it on and hear the same trite classic rock horse shit all the time without fail but never any good Love Battery or Truly or Flop, or anything that's around today. Bands like The Cars and Journey made it because of an initial push, and now they're staples on the radio and will be played in syndication forever even if they totally suck...but music that's better for any situation isn't played there because it didn't have a carefully orchestrated platform of marketing. Believe me - I'm not a fan of the industry and I don't like any kind of marketing strategy of art...but the reality of it is that you used to have to take it into account. Nowadays it's a lot easier than it used to be, and Nirvana would've been nothing without Geffen.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by boxcar »

Like Slugg and I both pointed out, the question is a moot point because we have no way to tell what the world would be without Nirvana coming along when they did.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by duds »

Slugg wrote:Smells Like Teen Spirit only did well because they released it and then the record label had people who called MTV and harassed them to play it at like, 6 AM.
It's healthy to be cynical, but I think you're attributing way too much credit to the media/music industry in comparison to the discerning record buying public when it comes to reasons for Nirvana's success.

take this from wiki's entry on Teen Spirit:
The song did not initially chart, and it sold well only in regions of the United States with an established fanbase for the group. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was not expected to be a hit, for it was merely intended to be the base-building alternative rock cut from the album. It was anticipated that the follow-up single "Come as You Are" would be the song that could cross over to mainstream formats. However, campus radio and modern rock radio stations picked up on the track, and placed it on heavy rotation. Danny Goldberg of Nirvana's management firm Gold Mountain later admitted that "none of us heard it as a crossover song, but the public heard it and it was instantaneous. They heard it on alternative radio, and then they rushed out like lemmings to buy it." The video received its world premiere on MTV's late-night alternative rock program 120 Minutes, and proved so popular that the channel began to air it during its regular daytime rotation. MTV added the video to its "Buzz Bin" selection in October, where it stayed until mid-December.
Assuming that's roughly accurate (and I know it's wikipedia but I'd say that is pretty accurate), would you not say that looks more like a case of the media slowly picking up on what the fans were into first, then supplying their demand, rather than the industry force-feeding a product to mindless consumers? (which does happen of course, but not in this case IMO).
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by Nirbelly »

I hear nirvana songs on the radio all the time, they sound timeless. but at the same time, the music industry is so much different now, then it was then. they aren't really putting anything out "mainstream wise" that has that specific sound. it would probably be a really successful underground band if it were to have happened now. and the fans wouldn't be punk, they'd be hipsters or some other group stupid people have made up. but then again thats exactly what people thought in the 90s when they came out, so who's to say if they'd be successful now.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by scentless »

I don't know to be honest, maybe if they started out this year I honestly believe they would succeed even faster.
(look at the bands rising out of nowhere)

If kurt didn't die (let's keep the theories out of it) and nirvana would've stayed together I think you could still see them on reading and stuff.

It's like the rolling stones! It's good in every music era...
Let's face the fact that Nirvana became even bigger when Kurt died because dead artists are a cheap and good income anyway.
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Re: Would Nirvana be popular today if they started out in 20

Post by evee103 »

I think they'd have a good following in the indie world. They'd be next to Ty Segall and the like.
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