Published Mar 19, 2009Despite Nirvana being one of the biggest bands of the '90s, the group are apparently not the cash cow they once were. According to analysts' estimates, Primary Wave Music - the company that owns 50 percent of Kurt Cobain's music-publishing rights - has only earned about $2.3 million from Nirvana licenses, a strikingly low number compared to that made off other big-name rock acts.
In a recently published Portfolio article, the magazine does some profit comparison between Nirvana and current pop and rock stars, pointing out that over the last three years Primary Wave has only licensed 13 Nirvana songs to film and television productions for an estimated $480,000. Compare that to the $1 million earned for 105 licences from tween heartthrobs Jonas Brothers and the $5 million made from Aerosmith's Guitar Hero deal and it's easy to see why Primary Wave may have buyer's remorse. After all, the company's share of Nirvana's publishing rights didn't come cheap; the publisher paid out a reported $50 million to Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, for its stake in the band.
The article goes on to say that perhaps the main reason Nirvana sales have dwindled is that the band's music is "less commercially adaptable" than that of other groups, writing that Cobain's sound and lyrics embody a generational angst no longer felt in today's pop culture. Now while this may or may not be true, it does appear as if Love has been less than helpful in Primary Wave's pursuit of profits. Apparently, she's soured several deals for the company, such as in 2006 when talks between CBS and Primary Wave reportedly imploded after the Nirvana team (made up of Love, former band members and their record label) asked for a sum that was twice the industry standard to have Nirvana tracks featured in an episode of CSI: Miami.
Now, while all this is likely bad for Primary Wave, the silver lining for Nirvana fans is that they don't have to see Cobain's songs getting dragged through the profit-hungry mud of the mainstream music machine. On the other hand, rocking out to "Breed" on Rock Band is pretty awesome.