Successful Independent Record Labels

successful independent record labels

Independent record labels are a growth industry. Collectively, they account for one third of U.S. music sales. Here are some of the top independent record labels and the artists they represent:

XL Recordings

Founded in 1989, their stable of artists includes Radiohead, Adele, and M.I.A. They started as a rave and dance music label but have obviously branched out from there. They actively seek out new artists.

R&S, a Belgian label

Formed in 1984, it’s one of the oldest indie labels around. They’re steeped in groundbreaking experimental music in dance and electronic music genres. Their catalog includes Aphex Twin, Ken Ishii, James Blake, Vondelpark, Paul White and Nicolas Jaar among others.

Ghostly International

This successful indie label was founded in 1998 to capitalize on the booming Detroit techno music scene. They’re heavily into North American electronic music and list Matthew Dear, Tycho, Tobacco, and Psymun on their roster of artists.


started in 2007, this Los Angeles based independent label is known for its eccentric soundscapes and bizarre visuals. Artists on Brainfeeder include Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus and George Clinton, yes that George Clinton.

Mind of a Genius

Another Los Angeles label, Mind of a Genius was founded in 2013. They’re uber selective about who they represent and look for long-term development over quick hits. They currently have ZHU, Gallant, THEY., Klangstoff and Kwaye under contract.


Known for underground rock in both the UK and North America, founded in 1980, 4AD has been the label of choice for Pixies, Bon Iver, Bauhaus, Twin Shadow, TV on the Radio, Grimes, Future Islands, The National, St. Vincent, and SOHN.

Carpark Records

Founded in 1999 in Washington D.C., Carpark is one of the more varied independent record labels with a massive roster of artists including Toro y Moi, Skylar Spence, Cloud Nothings and Dan Deacon.

Domino Records

Founded in South London in 1993, Domino is one of the more influential labels for indie rock music. They’ve progressed from being primarily a UK based label to a major player in the U.S. and among international indie rock labels. Their roster includes Blood Orange, Artic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Neutral Milk Hotel, Dirty Projectors and Hot Chip.

Zoom Lens

Started in 2009, Zoom Lens is yet another Los Angeles based independent label. They concentrate on a mix of experimental and pop music and are a leading indie label when it comes helping artists garner worldwide presence, including artists from Japan, the Philippines, and North America. Meishi Smile and LLLL are among their notable releases.

Stones Throw

Founded in 1996, this independent label offers a wide variety of music genres when compared to other labels. Artists on their roster include J Dilla, Dam-Funk, Madvillain, NxWorries and Madlib. They are credited with having a lasting impact on mainstream hip hop in the 2014 documentary, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton.

Sub Pop

Sub Pop is a Seattle based independent record label started in 1986. Formed to create and market a “Seattle sound” they’re credited with putting the grunge genre on the map with releases from Soundgarden and Nirvana. They continue to focus on underground music from the likes of Fleet Foxes, Shabazz Palaces, CLIPPING. and Beach House.

No discussion of independent labels would be complete without a look at Chance the Rapper’s success. His 2013 breakout mixtape Acid Rap was downloaded over a million times and led to appearances on Saturday Night Live and a role on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. It also led to a bidding war between the major labels to sign him. Chance declined to participate and remained independent. He still hasn’t signed with any record label, although his last two releases Coloring Book and Surf were debuted in an exclusive arrangement with Apple. This has allowed him to maintain his independence while monetizing his music.

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