Looking to expand your musical horizons beyond the big 3 vinyl record labels? Want to get a broader understanding of music today, both past and present? Stuck listening to the same genre on repeat and want to get a fresh perspective?
Then look no further, for today we will be exploring some of the best vinyl record labels operating today.
1. Warp Records (Electronic)
Above all other labels, in my opinion, is the legendary electronic label Warp Records. Of course, with its origins being electronic music, the label was likely one of the first to embrace digital production.
Thus, this is not a vinyl-only label, though in such an age of tumult for the medium – with mass delays across the board – it is no wonder many labels are turning their backs on it, at least for the time being.
With a list comprised of arguably the most important and cutting-edge artists in music today, the label has extended its sphere of influence far into the new millennium.
They are most likely to be remembered as the label that brought the world such ground-breaking electronic acts as Boards of Canada, Autechre, and Aphex Twin. However, just one look at the list linked above will make you aware of how supportive they have been of newer artists like, say, Danny Brown and Oneohtrix Point Never, artists who are attempting to take music into the future.
2. Impulse! Records (Jazz)
Perhaps your vinyl collection is not as full of electronic music as mine. Instead, you might be a collector of jazz records, in which case you will no doubt be aware of the legendary Impulse! Record label.
From vinyl release to vinyl release, they have managed to stay relevant and impactful over a long and storied career in the record industry.
One of their earliest and brightest shining stars was none other than John Coltrane. Their legacy goes far beyond his legacy and regality, though.
Even today, the label maintains considerable sway in the burgeoning fields of new jazz artists. Taking Coltrane’s place is the jazz polymath Shabaka Hutchings, three of his projects (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming, and Shabaka and the Ancestors) taking pride of place on the label’s current roster.
Why not revel in your love for them and get a branded slipmat?
3. Rocket Recordings (Esoteric)
Another relatively little-known record label hailing from the UK, this label has decidedly gargantuan ambitions.
These ambitions are mirrored in the earth-shattering volume of so many of their releases. One of their more successful artists – both critically and commercially – is the band GNOD, a band whose often rancid blend of psychedelia and noise has ensured that they simply cannot be ignored.
Considering how independent this label is, their records are often kept in print. They are a DIY label with a thoroughly professional attitude that has got them places far beyond their means.
Labels like this, featuring such esoteric artists and output, redefine what turntables are and what they can be.
4. Numero Group (Esoteric)
This is a label that has been dear to my heart for a number of years.
The aesthetic of their releases alone is enough to catch anyone’s eye. The whole idea of the Numero Group was to release records that have not received as much attention as they deserve.
‘In the growing noise of the so-called reissue field, The Numero Group remains distinct in its quality: deeply researched, expertly resuscitated and lavishly packaged box sets, playlists and ephemera of historic music from the 1950s-1990s. Founded in Chicago in 2003 by Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley, for more than 15 years Numero has committed to unearthing precious lost sounds for new audiences, with an unparalleled ear for potential and spirited eye for detail.’
You only need to take one look at the artists on their roster to see this. One of their more notable artists is the late Charlie Megira, an Israeli singer and songwriter whose repurposing of Americana for his own purposes is entirely singular, both ‘familiar and entirely alien’.
5. R&S Records (Techno)
To crown things off, we have to return to another label that is near and dear to my heart – and closely embedded within the embryonic development of electronic music.
If Jazz fans have labels like Impulse! and soul fans have labels like Motown, then those looking for techno surely need a forum too. This forum comes in the form of R&S Records, a label founded in Belgium to herald the most cutting-edge techno around at the time.
Since relaunching and featuring some of the most notable and prolific names in all of the electronic music, R&S has solidified its reputation as one of the most important record labels to do it.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, your musical horizons have been sufficiently expanded upon. Do not let this be the last part of the process – go out and explore for yourself. Be curious always.
FAQs Vinyl Record Labels
What is the label on a vinyl record called?
This label, though sometimes referred to simply as a sticker, is more likely to be referred to as a record label. This can be confusing unless you realize that the reason record label companies are called record labels is precisely because of the label stuck onto a record. Often, this label would come to be seen as a mark of assurance that the record you were buying was going to be one of quality or otherwise one that you will like without needing to hear it.
Can an LLC own a record label?
A Limited Liability Company (or LLC) is an easy and inexpensive way to start a record label, reducing the number of administrative requirements considerably. This is actually the least administrative requirement of any formal business identity. So, yes, they can own a record label.
Who are the big 3 record labels?
Though there are ever more record labels each day, many of these individual labels are actually owned by or reside under the umbrella of one of the 3 big record labels. These are Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group.