Pavitt was a DJ at Olympia's KAOS 89.3 FM. Hoping to draw attention to the burgeoning musical underground, Pavitt issued six print zines and three cassette compilations. The cassette tapes featured music by unsigned American bands, and artwork by soon-to-be-famous cartoonists Peter Bagge and Charles Burns.
After the last issue was published, Sub Pop was picked up as a column by The Rocket, a bi-weekly newspaper based out of Seattle.
In 1986, Pavitt co-founded the Sub Pop record label together with Jonathan Poneman. The two men aggressively promoted the Seattle music scene, and were instrumental in popularizing what came to be known as "grunge rock" or "the Seattle Sound." Sub Pop Records went on to achieve fame and fortune in the wake of Nirvana.
Pavitt retired from Sub Pop in 1996.