Bands Coming in Under The Radar – 2000

By John Zebrowski, Seattle Times, 2000

Ken Stringfellow was only 20 when the Posies signed with Geffen Records in 1989. Three acclaimed albums followed, with moderate if unspectacular sales. Then, the band was dropped – with little money to show for its six years on the label.

“We were selling 100,000 records each time and it was a bummer for them,” Stringfellow says. “I figure we put $1 million in their pockets. It just shows how much they were spending.”

What were they spending it on? For the average band, $200,000 for the recording, another $50,000 to promote the album, another $50,000 for a video. Money for a tour, more so the musicians can pay rent until the record starts selling, plus some cash for the manager and the lawyer. Suddenly, even a band watching its spending can be in a deep hole. Hammerbox still owes A & M Records $330,000. This isn’t like a bank loan; it comes out of the musicians’ royalties, which many bands never see.

The Posies sold more than 250,000 records for Geffen. Stringfellow figures it’ll take another 250,000 for the band to be clear of its debt.

In 1998, the Posies released an album through the Seattle indie label Pop Llama. With no promotion or radio play, it sold only about 20,000.

“But you know what?” he said. “Everybody got paid.”