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R.E.M.'s New Business Plan: Cashing In on ’90s Nostalgia

Years after its last album, 1990s icon R.E.M. has managed to carve out a lucrative niche by sticking to its original plan

No one in R.E.M. is dead. Phew.
Illustration by Justin Metz; Poster Photograph by Laura Levine

From a renovated red-brick factory near the train tracks in Athens, Ga., Bertis Downs orchestrates the afterlife of R.E.M. At its peak, R.E.M. had seven full-time office workers; now they’re down to two, plus Downs. The three administer the fan club, sell T-shirts, deposit royalty checks, and otherwise ensure that the former band members are free to pursue their post-R.E.M. passions, which currently include teaching art at New York University (singer Michael Stipe), composing a rock concerto (bassist Mike Mills), and running a music festival in Mexico (guitarist Peter Buck).