Nirvana's horrified reactions to 1993 ticket prices are a sweet reminder of more innocent days

Kurt 1993
(Image credit: Nirvana / YouTube)

When cultural commentators look back on the 1990s, they tend to associate 'Generation X' and its most totemic figureheads as painfully self-aware and jaded, paralysed by a sense of ennui and cloaked in layer upon layer of irony.

How refreshing then to see archive footage [uncovered and posted by Happy Mag] showing one of the decade's most iconic anti-heroes, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, at his most unguarded and natural, his face registering genuine astonishment, disbelief and horror when he and his then-bandmates, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl, are informed that there are musical artists with who they might share, say, a music festival's VIP area, or an MTV hospitality room, who have the gall to charge anywhere between $50 and $75 for a concert ticket.

"There are people who charge that much?" gasps an incredulous Cobain, seemingly  blithely unaware that his scrappy little punk band are no longer playing all-ages all-dayers at The Vogue or the Central Tavern in downtown Seattle, and that having a Billboard 200-topping album, as Nirvana did in 1992 with Nevermind, brackets them closer to Barbara Streisand than Gruntruck on the live circuit.

At one point during what we assume is a TV interview, Nirvana ask their off-screen manager John Silva how much they are charging for live gigs, and exactly what percentage of this they, as a band, are banking each time they step onstage. 

Informed that on a $20 ticket price, they collectively share 25% of the net, Cobain mumbles something about never being great at school, and there's a beat of silence as some hasty mental calculations are made, with the consensus being that each band member will receive about $1.75 per ticket sold, meaning that performing in 7,500 to 10,000 capacity venues on the In Utero tour they can expect to trouser up to $10,000 each per gig. 

At which point a child-like grin spreads across Kurt Cobain's face as he realises that he might not be Madonna, but equally he's not going to have to forage a half-eaten Big Mac from a dumpster after his next gig.


Simpler times indeed.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.