If you were to flick through your record collection, or iTunes, or respective music listening mechanism, you’d probably be surprised to know that a huge percentage of the artists you listen to are on independent record labels. We’re taking a look at 20 of the most iconic and important record labels and giving you some insight into how they got their start, which bands are signed to them, and why that matters. From I OH YOU to Mexican Summer, take a look at 20 indie record labels you should know.
Built by Australian heavyweight Michael Gudinski in 1999, Liberation was touted as his platform to develop and release Australian music. The roster is built from suitably large names from different eras of Australian music. There’s the old guard, Archie Roach, Diesel, Jimmy Barnes, and Hunters & Collectors. There are the experienced youngsters, Dan Sultan, The Temper Trap, Kasey Chambers, TZU and British India. And finally there are the up-and-comers, New Gods, Snakadaktal and World’s End Press. This cross-generational roster ensures the stability of Liberation.
Remote Control was set up in 2001 to represent a host of international records labels in Australia and New Zealand. They look after labels such as 4AD, Matador Records, Rough Trade, XL Recordings, Young Turks and act as an Australian avenue for releases by artists including Radiohead, The Horrors, Cat Power, Adele, Grimes, Purity Ring, Friendly Fires, Palma Violets, and Vampire Weekend.
Based in London, Domino Records are the label responsible for bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective and Franz Ferdinand as well as Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him. The Arctic Monkeys are one of their biggest names rising to continuing success with their latest 2011 release, Suck It And See receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews. As Domino Records continues to sign some of alternative music’s most successful they continue to represent bands across the diversity of the indie music realm.
Browsing through XL’s list of artists is like imagining the ultimate lineup for a music festival. Think Radiohead, Adele, Jack White, and Vampire Weekend to name a few. Beginning in 1989, the English label has risen to success since its early days where it began as a branch of Beggars Banquet Records. The label began with dance releases before moving into the more mainstream music scene in the early 2000’s. Recently they had Adele’s overwhelming success with 24 weeks at Number 1, bringing in an estimated $67 million dollars. The continuing success of their other big name artists such as Sigur Ross predict many more years of for xl as one of the most successful indie record labels.
Matador Records began in the apartment of the co-founder, Chris Lombardi in 1989 who was soon joined by Gerald Cosoly, manager of Homesteasd Records. In the 1990s, they signed indie rock bands such as Yo La Tengo before branching out to include international acts. Today they’re associated with big indie names such as Cat Power and Interpol. Celebrating their 21st birthday in 2010, the label has maintained a strong position in the music world.
Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a part of the 2012 Melbourne Music Week, locally run label Chapter Music has a lot to be proud of. Guy Blackman and Ben O'Connor have managed to not only survive in the harsh world that is the music industry but also undoubtedly thrive. Their roster is host to some of the most talented local outfits including the Crayon Fields, Twerps, Dick Diver, Jonny Telafone, and Tenniscoats.
Can you imagine throwing a party with live bands to raise money to stay in your share house? A slight risk but it worked out for four Melbourne housemates in 2009 where 200 people came to watch Neon Love and Comic Sans. Since that night they’ve created the record label I OH YOU that continues to hold regular party nights around Australia. They’ve just announced a position on the UK’s Great Escape Festival this year in May. With continual success in such a short time this Australian label is anticipated to just continue to grow and grow.
A Melbourne based husband and wife duo who have spawned an indie-touring and record label phenomenon deserve a place on the list. Their story began in 2006 with their Australian release of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s House Arrest and his subsequent debut Australian tour. Since then they’ve released albums by Beach House, Toro Y Moi, andBachelorette and brought them all and many more to our shores. However, they also boast a small but stellar roster of Australian acts, including Beaches, Wintercoats and Montero.
Peter Redvers-Lee, former editor of Living Blues, a magazine that focused on African American blues began the label Fat Possum in 1992. At first the label soely signed original Blues artists from the Mississippi region in America. The label has now expanded to indie bands influenced by Blues. One of their most notable and successful bands is the Black Keys whose 2003 Thickfreakness was released with Fat Possum. As a niche label who have continued to rise to success, Fat Possum continue to sign acts such as Band of Horses, Spiritualized and Dinosaur Jr.
Originally created by Kemado Records in 2008 as a limited edition vinyl-only offshoot, in four years the label has grown into its very own behemoth, boasting a roster of over 100 artists. Including such hip names as Kurt Vile, Washed Out, Tallest Man on Earth and Best Coast (as well as Aussies Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and The Black Ryder), it’s no wonder they’ve become such a powerhouse. Best Coast’s debut album was one of their biggest releases, selling 57 000 copies; an impressive 10 000 of which were vinyl. Their strength is in their impeccable artist roster, built from different corners of the indie-rock pantheon, from Real Estate to Wooden Ships.
Another independent label based out of Sydney, local label Rice Is Nice was formed in 2009 by local industry movers-and-shakers Julia Wilson and Bon Shakleten. The label is now home to locally and internationally acclaimed Australian artists including The Laurels, Seekae, SPOD, Donny Benet and Richard In Your Mind.
Based out of Sydney, local label R.I.P Society began in 2008 and cover releases ranging from punk to garage, rock n roll and all things in between. Recent releases have come from the likes of internationally acclaimed Royal Headache as well as outfits such as Woollen Kits, Bitch Prefect, Boomgates, Circle Pit and Bed Wettin' Bad Boys.
This independent and artist run label is the brainchild of a host of local outfits and individual artists including names like Otouto, Kid Sam, Oscar + Martin, Fox + Sui, and The Harpoons. The label that began in 2007 is also run by the same people who bring you the Sugar Mountain festival and have recently released well received albums such as the Die Young record by Sydney based act Collarbones.
Falling under the Modular People banner, which also includes their touring company, Modular recordings began in the summer of 1998 and have since signed some legendary Australian and international acts. These include The Avalanches, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wolfmother, The Presets and a local band you may have heard of by the name of Tame Impala.
Californian based label Burger Records began as a local record store that has now grown into one of the biggest garage rock labels in the world. Their Facebook page describes the label as "a rock n roll philanthropic quasi-religious borderline-cultish propaganda spreading group of suburban perma-teen mutants." That sounds about right when you consider that their roster includes names like The Black Lips, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Thee Oh Sees, Harlem, JEFF The Brotherhood, King Tuff, Ty Segall and OFF!
Beginning in 2005 as a series of club and party nights in London, UK based label Young Turks have evolved into one of the worlds leading independent labels. The label graced our shores last year to program a stage at the Laneway Festival series and it's no surprise why when artists like The XX, Chairlift, SBTRKT, Jamie XX, John Talabot and Holy Fuck are on their label.
Create/Control pride themselves on running a label that aims "to specifically meet an independently minded artist's needs in today's music industry." Boasting an impressive roster of local and international talent Create/Control are fast becoming one of Australia’s most active indie labels. With names like Opossum, Cvrches, Metric, Velociraptor, and Ultravista, and new releases from PVT and California Waves, it's hard not to see why.
Specialising in Australian hip-hop and electronic beats, Elefant Traks is a Sydney based record label distributed by Inertia. Beginning in 1998 they’re lucky enough to have Hermitude under the belt. One of their most successful achievements is Sydney rapper The Tongue who has risen to success touring with the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Public Enemy as well as making numerous Australian festival appearances. With Australian hip hop rising in popularity, Elefant Traks can take some credit for that.
They have been described as one of “the one of the most influential indies in the music business” by Pitchfork. Specializing in hip-hop and electronic artists, Fools Gold is the creation of Dj’s A-Trak and Nick Catchdub. They’ve introduced the music world to artists such as Kid Cudi, Bag Raiders and Kid Sister. In fact they’re not just a record label. They’ve hosted parties with Kanye West, have their own retail store an host festivals around the world. Their domination of the music industry in general makes Fools Gold a label you definitely want to know.