The entertainment industry is a huge force in the American economy. While it’s the film production companies that tend to get the most press, there are many record labels that create tens of millions of dollars each year in America. As with the film industry, we’re seeing more and more independent labels setting up shop, Along with independent movie production companies, independent record have taken on much greater importance in today’s media landscape. It has become much easier for small independent record companies to make a big difference in the recording industry. Independent record labels play a big role in finding smaller bands and bringing them into the mainstream.
Bands like Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab For Cutie, and Franz Ferdinand are examples of bands that started with a small, independent record label, but went on to become enormously famous and successful. Independent record labels are much more willing to take on the risky smaller band, and generally don’t have a large bureaucracy to deal with in order to sign a new act.
An advantage of their smaller size is that independent record labels are often more in touch with what is new and popular in pop culture. Independent record labels can oftentimes be run by younger individuals who are themselves involved in the music scene, which means they know what the next big thing is likely to be.
Just as in any industry, there are independent record labels that stand out above the rest. These companies have a great ability to sign bands that really take off, consistently signing acts that find a following in the mainstream. Some have been powerhouses in the recording industry since the 80s and 90s, but there are also independent record labels that have just come onto the scene and are still doing extremely well. Here are some of the best indie record labels that are out right now.
Domino Records (Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective)
Domino Records was formed in 1993 by Laurence Bell and Jacqui Rice, operating on investments of just $50 a week. The two weren’t sure how they would make it work, but were committed to making it in the music biz. This tenacity and determination allowed him to sign some very talented, but unknown American acts. One of his first successes was Pavement, the group considered by some music historians to be the best group of the 1990s.
The label’s first widespread commercial success was Elliott Smith, who ended up being bought up by larger record label, granting Domino Records some much needed capital with which to work.
A big success in 2003, 10 years after the label began signing acts, was the massively popular Scottish rock group Frans Ferdinand. The group’s major hit, “Take Me Out,” was played all over the radio and MTV, and made Domino records a player in the music world. Domino hit it big again when they signed British band Arctic Monkeys, which exploded in popularity and brought more prestige to the label. Domino records is now synonymous with breakout indie rock and alternative bands.
Soma Quality Recordings (Daft Punk)
Soma Records is one of the most influential indie record labels in the dance music world. Their biggest success came in the late 90s with the signing of dance music giants Daft Punk. It was a huge break for the label, as no other act signed with them has approached the level of fame that Daft Punk has found.
The group produced and released the singles Da Funk and Around The World with Soma, though Daft Punk then signed with Virgin records for their first album. Still, the group’s start with Soma transformed them from a small indie dance group into an electronic act to be reckoned with. This success with Daft Punk allowed Soma to use its greater operating capital to sign influential electronic musicians in the years to come, though Daft Punk remains their greatest success.
Sub Pop Records (Nirvana, Death Cab For Cutie, Flight of the Conchords)
Sub Pop Records is one of the best-known independent record companies in America. Based out of Seattle, Washington, it has signed and promoted many of the breakout bands that we know today. What many music lovers do not know is that the world-famous Nirvana, also based out of Seattle Washington, was first discovered by Sub Pop. The company released Nirvana’s first LP, putting the group on the road to their place in rock history, and helping fuel the popularity of the Grunge genre. Another one of Sub Pop’s best-known groups is the Seattle-based band Death Cab for Cutie.
Sub Pop records is now known in the recording industry as a sanctuary of indie bands that are looking to push the envelope in experimental music. Sub Pop records has a great ability to take music that is experimental and market it to the masses in the recording industry. It also takes chances on comedians and comedic groups, adding an extra dimension to the company’s output.
Ed Bangers Records (Justice)
Ed Bangers records was started by music promoter and manager Pedro Winter. Winter, going by the stage name Busy P, was the manager of the aforementoned group Daft punk. In Paris, France, Pedro Winter would set up house party gigs for Daft Punk before they were a worldwide phenomenon. Soon after Daft Punk began playing these parties, their career really took off with their hit songs Around The World and Da Funk. After finding this massive success with promoting and managing Daft punk, Winter believed it was time for him to start his own record label.
Winter started the Ed Banger label out of Paris, finding success with the signing of local band Justice. Justice became an international dance music hit nearly overnight, with their first song, Waters of Nazareth, getting play in dance clubs throughout the world. That’s when Justice decided to produce its first full-length album, which truly brought it into the big time. The hit single D.A.N.C.E was not only a crowd favorite in the clubs, but was also used in movies and television, and played regularly on the radio, and put Ed Banger on the map like never before.
Fool’s Gold Records (A-Trak, Chromeo)
Fool’s Gold was started in 2007 by DJ superstar A-Trak. A-track decided to bring a whole new style of music into the mainstream. By merging together hip-hop and dance music, A-Trak created a whole new genre that caught on in the mainstream. Many producers copied the style, meaning that if you flip on the radio, you’ll likely hear a mixture of rap and electronic music inspired by the Fool’s Gold sound. A lot of mainstream music is influenced by the releases put out by the Fool’s gold record label.
Fool’s Gold has featured many appearances by big rappers, like Kanye West, demonstrating the company’s desire to move more toward the rap and hip-hop side of the music industry, and further away from its origins as a dance music label. This move is paying off, as Fool’s Gold has entered the mainstream consciousness more than anyone expected. Fool’s Gold continues to grow, and A-Trak keeps releasing hit songs, making the label one to watch in the years to come.
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