The first thing we need to ask ourselves is, “what is an independent label?” The answer to that question would be – any label that is funded independently and isn’t connected to the major labels such as Sony, Universal, and Warner. They are also called indie labels. Many of these indie labels are subsidiaries of the major record labels but run independently, which puts them in the “indie” category. A great example of a successful artist who started with an indie label is Adele. She first signed with XL Recordings in 2006 and is now one of the biggest names in music in the UK and around the world.
The best British independent labels
- Rough Trade
Rough Trade is the great father of British indie labels. Geoff Travis founded it in 1978, and it’s had its career highs and lows. The Smiths and Stiff Little Fingers were Some of the earlier names signed to the label. Now the company manages a diverse array of artists from the likes of Micachu to Antony & the Johnsons.
- XL Recordings
The label started as a dance offshoot of Beggars Banquet back in 1989, but since then, it has grown much more. The talented artists signed to the label are exciting and prevalent names such as Dizzee Rascal, Adele, and MIA.
- Ninja Tune
Coldcut developed the label in 1990 because they were unhappy with the British music industry. The sound they produce has evolved over the years, from instrumental hip-hop to cutting-edge dubstep.
Lawrence Bell started the record label in 1993. Back then, the label only licensed American records for the UK, but in time they started releasing UK-born music too. The Arctic Monkeys debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” became the fastest-selling debut album in the UK, and that was just the beginning.
If you didn’t know where dubstep came from as a genre, you now know it was the UK. Hyperdub did more for the style than any other record label. They signed artists such as Burial, King Midas Sound, Darkstar, and Joker. The big boss himself released music through the label under the alias Kode9.
Since Daniel Miller released a single back in 1978 and it was a huge success. Many other artists started to send him demos, and he released some of them. These events marked the start of Mute Records. Thanks to Miller’s love of synth music Mute Records brought us artists, like Depeche Mode.
We think that the names on our list are the pillars of UK indie labels, and they made a significant impact on British record labels as a whole and created history along with the artists they signed. But there are a few other indie labels that also impacted British music, such as:
Some of these names were only active for a few years, but they still managed to make it to British music history and affect it positively.