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Top Ten Independent Pop Record Companies

1) Epitaph

Epitaph Records was founded in the 1980’s by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz to put together a record label that was artist-friendly. The label helped propel the punk revitalization of the 1990’s with releases from bands such as The Offspring and Rancid. Key artists on the label today are:

• The Distillers
• Dropkick Murphys
• From First To Last
• Matchbook Romance

2) TVT

TVT was formed by Steve Gottlieb in 1985 as Tee Vee Toons, a vehicle for releasing collections of television theme songs. The label has since grown into a powerful force in the development of rap and hip hop. Among TVT’s key artists today are:

• Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz
• Sevendust
• Ying Yang Twins

3) Victory

Victory is a Chicago-based label founded by Tony Brummel. They are one of the most prominent labels in the world of Punk Pop A significant number of Victory artists take part in the annual Taste of Chaos and Warped concert tours. Current key artists include:

• A Perfect Murder
• Atreyu
• Hawthorne Heights

4) Matador

Matador was founded by Chris Lombardi in 1989 in New York City. The label’s first major success was the 1990 release of the album A Catholic Education by Teenage Fanclub. The label is part of the Beggars Group of independent labels and maintains a very diverse roster of artists. Current key artists include:

• Belle and Sebastian
• Cat Power
• New Pornographers
• Pavement

5) Koch

Koch is the fastest growing independent record label. It is a division of the Koch Entertainment Company. Koch was founded in the late 1990’s and maintains a varied and diverse artist roster including a number of artists who formerly recorded for major record labels. Key current artists include:

• Joan Baez
• Howard Jones
• Lil Romeo
• Ringo Starr

6) Rap-a-Lot

Rap-a-Lot is a Houston-based R&B label founded in Houston in 1986. They have played a key role in the development of Houston’s rap scene which has exploded nationally. Key current artists include:

• Geto Boys
• Pimp C
• Scarface

7) Saddle Creek

Saddle Creek was founded as Lumberjack Records in Omaha, Nebraska in 1993 by Rob Nansel and Mike Mogis. The label was catapulted into national awareness through the success of Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes. His music is a blend of folk and indie rock now referred to as the Omaha sound. Key label artists include:

• Bright Eyes
• Broken Spindles
• Cursive

8. Fueled By Ramen

Fueled By Ramen was started as a label by Less Than Jake guitarist Vinnie Fiorello and John Janick in 1996. The label is a key player in the development of Punk Pop and released early recordings by Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World and Yellowcard. Among the key artists currently on the label are:

• Less Than Jake
• Panic! At the Disco

9) Sub Pop

Sub Pop will forever be tied to the emergence of grunge in the early 1990’s out of Seattle, Washington. The label grew out of a fanzine also called Sub Pop and began to sign recording artists in 1986. They were the first label to sign Nirvana and Soundgarden to recording contracts. Sub Pop has survived the demise of grunge and continues to be a force in the development of independent recorded music. Key artists today include:

• The Postal Service
• The Shins
• Sleater-Kinney

10) Rykodisc

Rykodisc began in 1984 as the first cd-only record label. In their early years they became known for releasing much of Frank Zappa’s vast catalogue on compact disc. Through the years they have become known for stellar re-issues of classic pop and rock music as well as promoting new artists. Key current artists include:

• Brian Eno
• My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
• Josh Rouse

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Linda Lane is a 5 star writer for The Music Business Center, read more of her music business success articles and subscribe to the Music Biz Center blog free of charge at

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