How does one introduce Nashville?
Does one even have to bother?
Nashville has a hearty and hard-earned status as the Americana, country, and bluegrass center of the world, and it has few meaningful competitors in that space.
To this day, if you think of country you think of Nashville, and if you hope to emulate the likes of Cash, Parton, and Brooks you head straight to Nash with no detours.
But before you write the city off as a one-trick pony, you should peer beyond the surface and encounter Nashville’s shadow side.
Nashville has a burgeoning, potent, and prolific indie scene, along with a buzzy electro undercurrent and a heady garage movement.
Not one to give her secrets away at first glance, Nashville’s music scene rewards those who do their research and put in the work to find their niche.
Nashville’s record labels run the gamut, and we’re stoked to introduce you to fifteen of the best.
1. Universal Music Group
UMG is a bit of a buzzword among the industry insiders of Nashville’s world-famous country music scene and its reputation as a Starmaker is not far off the truth.
If you can get your demo heard by UMG you’ve taken a great stride towards future musical renown and if signed, you can rest easy knowing you belong among the best.
While they have a healthy curiosity for all genres of music their niche is generally pop/country that is commercially viable and can draw big stadium crowds.
Their artists are some of the biggest icons of the South: Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood.
They are not currently accepting unsolicited demos but keep performing, and they might come to you first.
2. Thirty Tigers
The studio that started out of a bedroom, Thirty Tigers has grown into a buzzy, amorphous, preternaturally hip record label that has played host to Nashville’s best independent musicians.
They have a particular penchant for singer-songwriters like Lucinda Williams and Jason Isbell and they seek out artists in the bluegrass, Americana, and alt-country genres.
Thirty Tigers is home to the humble, melodic, earthy side of country music – away from the bright lights and boot-stomping commercial festivals.
Their record label takes an intimate, boutique approach, allowing a creative bond to be fostered and nurtured.
3. Third Man Records
Founded by Jack White of White Stripes fame, Third Man is not merely a studio, it is a cross-pollinated cultural experience.
Vinyl is their special passion project and they have an in-house stage so they can press your live performances directly onto vinyl.
Bands in their roster include indie heavyweights like The Raconteurs, The Shins, Father John Misty, and Alabama Shakes.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Third Man is the conceptual, precocious, and meticulous heart of Nashville’s indie rock and folk scene.
They foster independence and spontaneity in their artists with robust mentoring and a groovy novelty lounge where you can seek out leisurely inspiration.
4. Dualtone Records
Fancy a spin on an awards show stage at some point in your future? Perhaps Dualtone is the record label you seek.
They have been nominated for sixteen Grammies, and they’ve won four.
Their biggest success story in the past decade has been The Lumineers of Cleopatra and “Ho Hey” fame.
They take on the intellectual and reflective sonic craftspeople among us, sidestepping the surface-level sounds and empty lyrics that so captivate mainstream radio.
They work their magic on Americana, folk rock, and indie with a grassroots approach that eschews mainstream sensibilities.
Contact them at [email protected].
5. Infinity Cat
Dismantling all of the preconceptions you have of Nashville is the quirky, downtempo record label Infinity Cat.
As we’ve insinuated oh so subtly, Nashville is not limited to country jams.
The indie, slacker-cool, and avant-garde artists that call the city home orbit around the unstudied, effortlessly cool Infinity Cat.
And they don’t just have a committed and loyal following in the Nashville indie scene.
Billboard Magazine listed them as one of the 50 best indie record labels in America.
Bands with names like Be Your Own Pet and Daddy Issues speak to their irreverent, vitalizing approach.
If you want to access a veritable mood board of Nashville’s underground garage scene, give Infinity Cat’s catalog a spin.
Contact them via a web form on their site.
6. Warner Music
If headlining sold-out stadium shows is on your vision board, then so too should Warner Music.
Their catalog is a veritable who’s who of the modern country and pop singer-songwriters who have transformed and championed the genre.
Warner is the opposite of some of the indie labels we’ve covered in this article, and they cater more toward commercially viable sounds and aesthetics.
They have had over 65 number-one singles, making them one of the most influential and far-reaching record labels in Nashville, and the American music scene more generally.
Use their contact form to reach out.
Check with them before you send an unsolicited demo, however!
7. Big Machine Label
If your sound veers more on the pop side of the country-pop divide, fear not – Big Machine is your Nashville second home.
With acts like Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, and Taylor Swift in their catalog you can put your trust in the Machine to bring your tracks to a wide commercial audience.
Did you know that Big Machine’s founder was the insider who signed Swidt after hearing her play at Nashville institution The Bluebird Cafe?
Since that fortuitous day, their profile has only risen and they’ve rapidly established themselves as a fixture in the commercial music industry of Nashville, along with big names like Warner and UMG.
They don’t accept unsolicited demos but you can contact them on their website.
8. Serpents and Snakes
A buzzy, trendy label with a zingy name and a hallowed set of founders.
That’s rights, we’re talking Kings of Leon, the Tennessee-bred kings of jangly, drawing indie rock.
They take an earthy, purist approach to their label, releasing the music that resonates with them and championing newcomers who have an original voice and a preternatural sense of self.
Their ethos is right out of the Richard Linklater film Slackers and features Southern stoners sharing musical shelf space with buoyant, dreamy garage rockers.
Contact them via their Bandcamp profile.
9. Nashville Music Group
Founded by Grammy-nominated veteran Denny Knight, it seems like every legend in country music has passed through NMG’s doors – we’re talking names like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Faith Hill, and Travis Tritt.
They take a traditional, practical, no-nonsense approach, promoting musicians who sing from the heart and write from the soul.
While some of their mightiest stars belong to another generation, they are always looking to raise the profile of Nashville by finding and promoting hidden gems and tomorrow’s next stadium icons.
They have an artist submission form on their website.
10. Jeffrey Drag
Founded by Adam Mount, Jeffrey Drag charts a dizzying array of sound, sampling flavors as diverse as underground rap, garage, and trad rock n roll.
One look at their catalog will send your artistic curiosity into overdrive and will have you rushing out to buy some turntables and a side of canvas and oil paints.
In a way, Jeffrey Drag exemplifies the robust, potent counterculture that exists in Nashville just underneath the surface of the country-industrial complex.
They accept Spotify and Apple Music links if you want to send them a demo but you can also reach out via their contact form on their website to open a line of communication.
11. Low Country Sound
Low Country Sound is the imprint of Nashville-based Grammy award-winning “super-producer” Dave Cobb.
Low Country but high quality, this label’s bread and butter is country in all its auspices: pop, folk, dreamy, bluegrass, and more.
Their catalog features up-and-coming musicians who are known for craftsmanship, technical mastery, and expansive, approachable sounds – musicians like Anderson East, Brandi Carlile, and A Thousand Horses.
They are not currently accepting demos, but keep performing and you may find your way onto their radar.
12. Readymade Records
Readymade Records is a fierce, audacious supporter of the nexus between rock, folk, and country – they’re the aged, honeyed whiskey of the Nashville record label world.
They nurture the introspective, painterly, poetic side of country rock and they have an uncanny knack for identifying unconventional, uncommonly talented songwriter-prophets.
Despite playing host to headlining acts like Brendan Benson, The Howlin’ Brothers, and Any Kind they maintain a kind of cottage-core, boho appeal, eschewing dramatic flourishes and big-money marketing.
They are not currently accepting demos, but that is always subject to change.
13. Ready. Set. Records.
Nashville staple Ready. Set. Records. bridges the gap between mainstream country and indie street cred, allowing its artists’ free reign to choose what level of reach and influence they seek.
Big names like Kacey Musgraves happily coexist with avant-garde bohemians like Brasko and Whissell and their catalog is an entrancing, delectable voyage through the currents of the Nashville music scene.
They incorporate a heady and intense artistic paradigm into their output and could be considered art directors as much as record producers.
The album art of every single release is worthy of being a wall-sized poster, one you paste on your wall while you spin their dreamy, evocative, erudite offerings on your record player.
Contact them via a form on their website.
14. BBR Music Group
If you know country music, then you know the artists that BBR manages: Jason Aldean, Lainey Wilson, Chase Rice, and Jelly Roll for starters.
BBR lives, breathes, and champions country in all its forms, and they are willing to work with artists who push the traditional boundaries of what the music genre can achieve.
They welcome rap-infused country, rockabilly Americana, pop-driven ballads, and more.
Whether you’re a lone wolf singer-songwriter or part of a multi-instrumental act they will consider taking you on.
You can contact them via an Outlook form on their website.
15. Sony Music Nashville
International corporate powerhouse, Sony is the pulsating, energetic heart of the Bluebird Cafe set and they can turn the guitarist at the local dive into a national icon.
Their roster is chock-full of shiny, preppy, relatable country icons, who chart the spectrum from mainstream pop to craft beer cool.
They focus most of their efforts on soloists, singer-songwriters, and the kinds of charismatic personalities that can carry a world tour on their shoulders.
Country legends like Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Maren Morris, and Miranda Lambert are some of the household names that trust Sony with their marketing, producing, and mentoring.
They are not currently accepting demos.
Top Nashville Record Labels – Final Thoughts
Whether you’re a lonesome country crooner or an indie-garage ruffian, don’t let your musical dreams just be dreams.
Nashville has the cultural variety and aesthetic flavor to tempt any prospective musician to its hallowed shores.
From international corporate tastemakers to bedroom-raised bespoke record labels, Nashville has it all.