The bulk of Nirvana's catalog is set for a high-fidelity do-over this year as the Original Recordings Group (ORG) prepares to release "Nevermind," "In Utero," and "MTV Unplugged" on 180-gram, audiophile quality vinyl for the first time ever. All three records will be released in 2009, with "Nevermind" coming first, says Monti Olson, a senior VP of Universal Music Publishing Group/Interscope Records and founder of ORG, who will announce the deal at South By Southwest tomorrow (March 21).
"Bernie Grubman remastered the recordings specifically for us," Olson said. "To our knowledge this is the first time "Unplugged" has ever come out on vinyl. They might have done a limited promotional thing but I dobut it."
Olson, who started ORG in 2006 with his own money as a "groovy little vinyl imprint," had to pitch Universal to give him the rights to the storied Nirvana catalog. "We spoke to Mike Davis at UME who we do a lot of business with and he thought it was a great idea," he said. "Ultimately [Nirvana's management] Michael Meisel and John Silva approved it. We had worked with them on Beck's "Odelay Deluxe" project and they thought we were the right company to do something this special."
"Bleach," Nirvana's first album, is currently being manufactured for vinyl release by Sub Pop.
ORG has the North American rights to the vinyl releases, and sell them through a variety of one-stops and online retailers. The vinyl business, according to Olson, is growing. "We have some new accounts that are experimenting with vinyl, like Best Buy. I don't know how strong their initiative is, but they've alotted a little bit of floor space for vinyl.
"But the bulk of the vinyl in the retail space goes through independent stores - the Amoebas and the Waterloos of the world that have always been in the vinyl business. But what's happening is more and more people are coming in with a curiosity about buying record albums."
ORG originally began with old jazz and classical reissues, but last year launched a "Classic Alternative" division with the Beck and a TV on the Radio release. "We're going to be releasing a lot of classic alternative music from the 80s and 90s on 180 gram vinyl. Stuff that's more obscure and more popular. We're in negotiation with quite a few of those artists," he said.
"They're the best sounding records on the market," Olson says with the excitement of a true plastic fanatic. "We spend $15 per LP on manufacturing. That's an enormous expense, but it shows in the final product, it shows by our sales, it shows by our growing customer base."