The city of bright lights, high-density skyscrapers, vistas of yellow taxis – and the buzziest, most eclectic music scene in the whole darn world!
Electronic hearts, country souls, and hip-hip lyricists take note – the NYC music scene is a carnival of talent and everyone can step right up, regardless of their origins or musical sensibility.
Taking the step to shopping your creations around is never done lightly, and it is often the thrilling culmination of years (or decades) of grit, exploration, and grueling trial and error.
You want to discover production wunderkinder and PR magnates – people who will see your vision and elevate it to a cultural commodity and artistic artifact.
There is no better place to take the step than New York, where you’ll find some of the most innovative record labels in the world.
Check out our list of the best record labels in NYC.
1. Republic Records
If you know the New York music industry, you know Republic Records – they’re the home of sleeper faves like Jack Johnson and Glass Animals, stadium headliners like Taylor Swift and Drake, and powerhouse baroque idols Florence + The Machine.
They produce pop, hip hop and electro hits just as swiftly as they dish out off-kilter, indie surprises.
Their reputation precedes them and if you find yourself fortunate enough to get on their A-list you can expect high quality, intelligent PR, brand consultation, and a team of specialists to launch your name into the circles that count.
They have had 17 Grammy awards and 23 Billboard #1 hits within just ten years which is a clear testament to their star-making capacities.
Learn more about contacting them on their website.
2. Exploding in Sound Records
Are you alternative, eclectic, and indie to a fault?
Are you ready to eschew the norms and carve out your own Yellow Brick Road journey into underground record stores everywhere?
Enter Exploding in Sound, a New York record label that welcomes one welcomes all – as long as you come decked in ragged plaid, tight jeans, and no-name Rayban lookalikes.
A look at their artist roster will have your poetry-slam, craft beer-loving heart frothing for more.
Since its founding in 2011 it has made waves in the alternative scene, and is a darling of the independent press, being dubbed “The Little Label That Could” (Brooklyn Magazine) that has had a “tremendous streak of unconventional and endearing album releases” (Impose Magazine).
3. Captured Tracks
Home of indie slacker cult faves like Mac DeMarco, DIIV, Beach Fossils, and Thee Oh Sees, Captured Tracks have a buzzy aura that far exceeds their fifteen years in the biz.
That might have something to do with the 300+ releases they’ve served up since their inception, demonstrating what seems like an allergy to procrastination.
Their ethos and aesthetic are sleek, gothic, and camp, with a radical and uncompromising candor that makes them an approachable choice for up-and-coming musicians.
Captured Tracks hails themselves as an “unwavering Brooklyn institution of independent music” and they are tirelessly hunting down the next notable act to add to their catalog.
4. Sacred Bones
Eccentric, audacious, and wildly experimental Sacred Bones doesn’t mind descending into unholy territory with their ever-curious artist roster.
Cooler-than-thou Brooklyn Magazine dubbed their artist list “one of the most intriguing in current circulation.”
Their feverish, fabulous dream is to cultivate unconventional talent and to discover and reissue music that has been lost to time, like that of bluegrass icon Townes Van Zandt.
They focus on vinyl releases and they branch out into a variety of mediums, such as film, graphics, and prints – as long as it captures their ethos both spiritually and creatively.
5. Matador Records
Matador is an indie powerhouse (it’s not a contradiction, I swear), that came out of Chris Lombardi’s apartment in the heady days of 1989.
They do their best work at the intersection of mainstream appeal and alternative cred – think Modest Mouse and Cat Power.
If you’re an alternative musician who wants a robust management and hype team behind you, without pressure to soften your edges, then Matador might be worth throwing onto your radar.
While they are not currently accepting demos, that is always liable to change – the best way to get on their radar is to keep performing live gigs and making a name for your musical chops.
Find a contact form on their website.
6. Fool’s Gold Records
An independent label distributed by Universal Music Group, Fool’s Gold offers musicians a taste of both corporate powerbroking and authentic, grassroots production.
They don’t discriminate when it comes to artist silhouettes, musical themes, or music genres, and they pride themselves on giving music lovers a taste of the experimental spectrum.
You probably know the work of electro darlings Chromeo or alternative rappers Run The Jewels – you’ve got Fool’s Gold to thank for that.
Billboard called them an “indie innovator” but Pitchfork threw roses on the stage with their adulation, saying Fool’s Gold is “one of the most influential indies in the music business.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or via a link where you can send your demo on their site.
7. DFA Records
Consider yourself an indie, post-punk, or electronica musician worthy of note, do you?
Are you longing to embrace the cult-worthy silhouette of acts like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, and The Rapture?
Perhaps DFA Records might be the inventive, hard-working hipster renegades you need behind you on your quest for musical infamy.
Indeed, LCD’s founder James Murphy is also one of the founders and visionaries behind DFA, and his eclectic verve can be deduced from the stable of creatives that DFA seeks out and nourishes.
The spirited indie-dance blend that erupted in early 2000s NYC lives on in DFA’s ever-expanding catalog.
Reach out via a form on their website.
8. Atlantic Record Group
If it’s good enough for The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Cher, Otis Redding, Stevie Nicks, Led Zeppelin, and Rush I would wager that it’s good enough for your musical creations.
Atlantic is a giant; a veritable legend in the hallowed history of NYC’s musical scene, and they come equipped with the PR and marketing arms befitting their reputation.
Now that they’ve been in the game 75 years, they have branched out into the whole panoply of modern genres, from dream pop to underground fuzzy garage, to art rap, to cottage kitsch indie.
Approaching a label of their stature is intimidating, and can cause the bravest among us to tremble and abandon hope.
They are not currently accepting demos but that is subject to change.
You can learn more on their website.
9. Greenway Records
If you have a retro heart in a modern body, meet Greenway Records, a record label that makes it their mission to rerelease and introduce DIY vinyl.
Greenway seeks out artists who favor the cottage industry philosophy of a music industry that has long since passed in the frenzy of commercialism and Billboard top 100 hits.
Greenway is a purist’s haven, a place where artists cans release psychedelic azure vinyl with titles like “Earthling On The Road To Self Love”.
If you like the delirious, enchanting, deeply weird tangents that music can take when it is unchained from its constraints, then you have found your spiritual home.
10. Ba Da Bing Records
Ben Goldberg has built up a quiet but sustained buzz in Brooklyn for his preternatural understanding of what makes rare, sustainable talent.
You may know Beirut and Sharon Van Etten but do you know their other buzzy offerings, like Slothrust and Woom?
They focus on pop and rock, and they don’t discriminate between musicians who aspire to global fame or those who just want to sell a few records at their local purveyor.
Ba Da Bing has an incisive approach and focuses on both the style and substance of prospective acts.
11. Daptone Records
Daptone is a jewel in the cluttered crown of Brooklyn’s cultural output.
They pave an uncharted, daresay spiritually fervent path through a saturated industry and always maintain an unflinching allegiance to a quirky, unstudied approach.
Here’s their own enticing self-estimation: “Musician-owned and run, our Brooklyn-based family of soul-drenched talent channels the spirits of bygone powerhouses like Stax and Motown into gilded moments of movement and joy.”
Their homespun, countercultural ethos is reflected in the records they produce, which are “hand-made and heart-stirred.”
For the rock purists, give their imprint Wick Records a taste of your demo.
12. Cult Records
When you realize that Cult Records was founded by The Strokes frontman, Julian Casablancas, you know almost all you need to know about their ethos and mission.
Cult, well, cultivates a broad blend of musical styles, featuring some of our millennium’s most elusive, dynamic tastemakers, like Karen O, Reputante, and Inheaven.
True to Casablancas’ roots in the NYC garage scene, Cult emphasizes the off-kilter, outlandish, audacious spirit that animates the city’s underground landscape.
They have released groovy merchandise as of late and are working steadily at establishing broader brand recognition internationally.
13. Dala Records
An independent Brooklyn record label founded by a trumpet-playing songsmith – it doesn’t get more deviously creative than that.
They strip down the veneer and superficiality of the music industry and take a back-to-roots approach with an unwavering focus on well-crafted songs and poetic lyricists.
They veer more towards soul, bluegrass, country, and indie-folk, the kind of languid, suave music you might hear at a coffee shop or an open mic night at a bohemian tavern.
With a fanatical dedication to quality, they “strive to fill a void in today’s music industry.”
Contact them via a web form on their website.
14. Mexican Summer
Unrepentant and brazen? Check.
Mexican Summer is the cool cat in the Brooklyn record world, dishing out an intoxicating blend of sonic dynamism, visual craftsmanship, and self-assured cross-pollination.
If you’ve got a finger on the pulse of the indie scene, you’ll be familiar with some of Mexican Summer’s artists: Cate Le Bon, Iceage, and Megabog come to mind.
They have just opened their 2023 studio residency application and they’re addicted to sussing out delightful, exploratory new currents in modern music.
Leave your email in their contact form to get a response.
15. Good Eye Records
Good Eye is a Beacon-based NYC record label that synthesizes the most enriching tendencies in sound, visuals, and aesthetic culture to create a tonic blend of creative magic.
If you don’t know some of their headlining hipster acts then now is the time to brush up – we’re talking Russian Baths, Lunch Ladies, and Makeunder.
The Good Eye experience is akin to browsing through a crowded antique shop, an alleyway art gallery, or a craft fair in an old warehouse – it luxuriates in creation and reference.
If art, painting, sculpture, and textiles are a part of your musical process then Good Eye and you might see eye to eye.
Top Record Labels in NYC – Final Thoughts
You believe us, don’t you?
New York is a hotbed of sonic, visual, and creative ferment, and it is the home of some of the world’s most invigorating record labels.
True to NYC style, art, painting, and aesthetics play a healthy role in the music scene, and the current roster of talent should inspire any fledgling musician to expand their horizons and break their boundaries.
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