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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sub Pop’s ‘Loser’ scholarship can help turn a Spokane senior into a winner

Sub Pop is accepting applications for its 2024 Loser Scholarship, offering $6,000 each to winning high school seniors.  (Sub Pop)

When the Loser T-shirt was launched by Sub Pop in 1988 the five-letter word wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Loser, in the world of Sub Pop, is a euphemism for being an outsider. By the definition of the well-respected indie rock label, a loser is not a defeated person.

That’s especially so regarding those who earn Sub Pop’s scholarship. Those who receive the Sub Pop Loser scholarship awards are winners. The Seattle-based record company, which helped launch Nirvana and Mudhoney a generation ago, and is home to Bully, Built to Spill and Postal Service, helped change the course of music during the late 1980s/early ’ 90s.

Sub Pop is accepting applications for its 2024 Loser Scholarship to help change the course of college students. The 18th annual scholarship offers a grand total of $18,000 in college scholarship money to three eligible high school seniors, who will each receive $6,000.

The stipulation is that each applicant must be a high school senior residing in Washington or Oregon, who will study full-time at an accredited university or college. Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman decided in 2006 to keep the scholarship in the Pacific Northwest.

“He wanted it just for those in Washington and Oregon since Sub Pop is part of the Pacific Northwest,” said Rebecca Sicile-Kira, Sub Pop online sales manager .

Poneman would like to help creatives who are on the high school periphery. There are academic and sports scholarships but sometimes quirky, artsy kids slip through the cracks when it comes to awards.

“Jonathan wants to shine a light on those kids in the art community,” Sicile-Kira said. “He wanted to help the ‘losers’ as we call them. They’re not losers. It’s just people who are not conforming to what is perceived as normal.”

Spokane’s Raven Smith was one of the Loser winners in 2017. Smith impressed the judges with her work with KYRS.

“Talking on the radio while truly being herself did not come easy to Raven,” Sub Pop judge Andrew Sullivan posted after Smith won her scholarship. “After moving to Spokane, she struggled to find her niche but found an outlet at her local radio station, KYRS. At KYRS, Raven worked her way from volunteer CD organizer onto the air … Her radio show, Basement Beats, is fantastic.”

Smith is the only Spokanite to win the Loser award, according to Sicile-Kira.

“So someone else from Spokane is due to win it,” Sicile-Kira said.

About 800 apply for the scholarship each year.

“So it’s not as if the odds are way against you,” Sicile-Kira said.

An education in the arts isn’t necessary for the scholarship. Applicants must submit an essay, one page or less, using any combination of the following questions as a guide.

  • What are you doing in the arts/music field in your community?
  • What does being a Sub Pop ‘Loser’ mean to you?
  • What are your influences and/or who inspired you to become involved in the arts?
  • Describe your biggest failure and explain how it has brought you closer to your goals?
  • Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
  • How has your family or community background affected the way you see the world?
  • Why should you be the Loser winner?

Students can bypass those suggested questions and write from their own angle.

List the school you are graduating from and the institution you plan to attend in the fall at the top of your essay, along with contact information.

The deadline for submitting applications is March 19.

Aside from the essay, applicants are encouraged to send any digital links, artwork, podcasts, plays or photos of community involvement.

“Any visual element will help,” Sicile-Kira said. “We look at everything and every year we are inspired by what we see in the Pacific Northwest.”

Please send all submissions and attachments by March 19 to