Being a musician and a label boss is no picnic, but sometimes the combination can be a winning one. From Jack White’s Third Man to Jay Z and Roc Nation – here are the best in the business.
Having released music by Arcade Fire, Factory Floor, Hot Chip, Hercules and Love Affair and of course Murphy’s own LCD Soundsystem, DFA has been something of an indie-disco treasure chest since it was established in 2001. Key release: the 3-disc ‘DFA Compilation Vol. 2’ is a shimmering snapshot of ‘00s NY dance.
Going solo after smashing it in an iconic New York band? Hit JC up: with Karen O and Albert Hammond Jr. among the names on the Strokes’ man’s roster, as well as, of course, his own Voidz, it seems to be Cult’s trademark. There’s young blood among its big names too, though: like skate-punks Cerebral Ballzy. Key release: Karen O’s ‘Crush Songs’.
Whatever your opinion of Mumford & Sons, it’s hard to doubt their commitment to grassroots folk. Since 2006, Communion, led by Mumforder Ben Lovett, Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble, have plucked Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka from obscurity. They’ve even had a hand in Catfish and the Bottlemen’s remarkable rise. Key release: Daughter’s ‘Wild Youth’
You can’t accuse Jack White of lacking an eclectic taste in bands: his label, the Detroit-founded, Nashville-based Third Man, has released music by everyone from Laura Marling to Insane Clown Posse. The imprint’s probably best known, however, for amazing innovation in vinyl. Key release: White’s own ‘Lazaretto’ LP.
He’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man, so of course Hova’s 2008-founded imprint and entertainment company was gonna be a big deal. Its roster stretches far beyond Jay’s hip-hop beginnings: as well as the likes of J Cole and Rihanna, Grimes and Haim are among the names Roc Nation’s management arm looks after. Key release: ‘Watch The Throne’. Duh.
In stark contrast to Jay’s glimmering parade of mainstream-bothering Roc Nation superstars, Kanye’s GOOD Music label has become a hub for dark rap sonics, with Pusha T and Hudson Mohawke among its artists. Key release: GOOD compilation ‘Cruel Summer’, if only for the blockbusting and moody ‘Mercy’.
Tyler The Creator
Odd Future Records
It’s hard to imagine having to call perennial prankster Tyler The Creator “boss”, isn’t it? That’s the case at Odd Future Records, however, which he founded in 2011. It’s not just an outlet for OF members, either: hardcore punks Trash Talk are also signed to the imprint. Key release: Tyler’s ‘Wolf’.
It’s still early doors for the Glasgow trio’s ‘first releases only’ imprint but Lauren Mayberry and co can reflect on a decent first year: Derry folkster Soak, the imprint’s first signing, won strong reviews for March EP ‘Blud’, as did Aussie duo Mansionair’s ‘Hold Me Down’ in March. Key release: only two to pick from, but Mansionair’s EP was impressive.
“I don’t really like the term world music. Wherever it comes from, it’s all just music, isn’t it? Hopefully that’s what Honest Jon’s is about – to open a few minds to what’s out there,” said the Blur man of his label, run in conjunction with a West London indie record shop. Key release: Actress’s ‘Splazsh’ is a NME favourite.
Mass Appeal Records
From Run the Jewels to DOOM collaborator Bishop Nehru, Mass Appeal is currently fostering some of rap’s most formidable talents. No wonder, bearing in mind its founder is responsible for some of hip-hop past’s most genre-defining moments, namely 1994 hood epic ‘Illmatic’. Key release: ‘Run The Jewels 2’ was 2014’s mightiest rap record.
Probably the most famous example of an artist setting up their own label. Founded in 1968, its history is littered with court cases, most famously against Steve Jobs’ Apple, and though it might be synonymous with the Beatles, the label also released music from Frank Sinatra and cult heroes Badfinger. Key release: Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ single.
More proof of the savvy business brain that lurks beneath Sonny Moore’s trademark flop of hair: Skrillex created his label before releasing his debut album, turning it into a platform for new exciting names in loud, punishing dance. Porter Robinson and Dillon Francis both got their breaks on OWSLA. Key release: Skrillex’s ‘Bangarang’ EP.
The Beasties’ label, a subsidary of Capitol, closed in 2001 due to mounting debts. But while it wasn’t a commercial success, it was a smash with critics, releasing some seriously great cult records by bands in the gnarly punk spirit of the NY trio. Key release: Got to be At The Drive-In’s ‘Relationship Of Command’
After Warner Bros shut down Prince’s previous label Paisley Park Records in a legal wrangle, The Purple One went on to found the still-active NPG Records in 1993. Short for New Power Generation, NPG has released all of Prince’s albums and side projects ever since, as well as LPs from friends and collaborators. Key release: Chaka Khan’s ‘Come 2 My House’.
Marshall Mathers marked the 15th anniversary of his and manager Paul Rosenburg’s hip-hop imprint last week with a new compilation. Though none of his signings have gone on to taste the monster success he’s endured, Shady Records has played home to some big names: 50 Cent and D12, to name a few. Key release: Fiddy’s ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
Big Brother Recordings
When Alan McGee announced he was leaving Creation Records in 2000, Oasis followed suit, setting up a new imprint to release their music, as well as that of friends’ bands like Happy Mondays. A neat touch: every release is codenamed RKID, as in ‘our kid’. Key release: Oasis’ ‘Stop The Clocks’