The U.K. is the pulsating soul of many of the world’s most vitalizing, cerebral, and radical genres and musical acts.
The U.K.’s diverse record labels pay homage to the potent alchemic assemblage of sound, texture, and visual culture that makes Britain such a hot spot.
The record labels featured below embolden the creative, radical tendencies that commercial and mainstream currents often overlook.
Whether you want to encounter your inner fragilities or imbibe in some heady and hedonistic revelry, the record labels of the U.K. are waiting in the wings to introduce you to your new favorite bands.
Perhaps you’ll be the next act they sign? Check out our list of the top UK record labels.
1. Beggars Banquet Records
Starting its hallowed life as a chain of record shops in the turbulent, intoxicating 70s, Beggars Banquet became a key player in the Brit punk movement that shook the world with tectonic force at the end of that decade.
Founder Martin Mills has been a constant advocate for independent, DIY culture and a vocal fixture of the British alt-culture scene.
They have never deviated from a rabidly alternative approach, releasing quintessentially eclectic, unapologetic music from Bauhaus, The Cult, The Charlatans, and St. Vincent.
They don’t accept demos directly but you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Bella Union
Founded by gothic shoegaze idols The Cocteau Twins, Bella Union encapsulates all the sublime, otherworldly tendencies inherent in Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde’s unusually revelatory canon.
Their biggest success to date has been the cottage-core folk sensations Fleet Foxes, who sold millions of copies of their serene, homespun yarns.
They have also released the likes of Father John Misty, Explosions in the Sky, and Beach House, demonstrating an unrelenting allegiance to cerebral instrumentals and poetically-crafted narratives.
Contact them at a list of email addresses on their website but be advised that they don’t currently accept demos.
3. Rough Trade Records
Formed in 1978 and now part of the Beggars Group of tastemakers, Rough Trade is the provenance of legendary post-punk, gloom merchants The Smiths, and they have gone on to celebrate indie punk in all its iterations.
In their own words, they were at the “epicenter of the punk explosion” and they have brazenly and relentlessly pursued their counterculture credentials ever since.
But that’s not all; never one to be stagnant in the face of a changing cultural lexicon, Rough Trade now champions psychedelic reggae, electronica, and soul.
Send link demos only to email@example.com.
Forgive me for a moment of hyperbole: if you like post-punk, gothic, new wave, and dream pop then 4AD is the beginning and end of your musical education.
It seems like every eccentric, sublime, entrancing act of the eighties walked through the doors of the music studio: Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus, and Modern English.
But like cheeky, brazen chameleons, they have adapted themselves to a new generation of musical troubadours.
They are now magnetics to some of the most uncompromising, original bands of our time: Future Islands, Deerhunter, and Bon Iver.
Their latest move towards experimental, luminous folk and whimsical indie has not fallen on deaf ears.
Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. LGM Records
The Times said of LGM: “they’re a start-up record label that aspiring artists can count on” and that sentiment rings true for all indie hearts and wild souls out there.
Their stable of artists is a veritable palette of the whimsical, plaintive, lush tendencies that indie rock is so unparalleled at producing.
Their artists are more like poet-philosophers, and they take an earthy, academic approach to music and visual culture.
Think The Quill, Aemma, Jo Goes Hunting, and Mono Club, acts that demonstrate that London is still the heart of the world when it comes to artists dedicated to their craft – mainstream credentials be damned.
Contact them at email@example.com.
6. Domino Music
Domino has a high profile in the London music scene and dominates the currents where mainstream pub rock and indie flavor coalesce.
The biggest names in their roster just so happen to be the biggest names in modern rock – we are talking innovators like Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.
But renegades, fear not – Domino likes to play with the entire palette of musical formulas, from alt-folk to ambient electronica.
Send them a message exclusively via SoundCloud.
7. Damaged Goods
Damaged Goods tick all the cooler-than-you boxes, having been founded in the heady, restless East London of 1988.
Their status and cachet have held strong in the ensuing decades, and in 2010 BBC named them DIY Label of the week, confirming and expanding their bedroom-born brand of cool.
Their bread and butter is the disruptive fervor of garage, street punk, and indie rock, so if their back alley, screw-the-man ethos mirrors your own, by all means, get off your haunches and join the ranks of the Damaged Goods.
Contact them at their website.
8. EMI Records
A name with some serious mileage in the British and international music scenes, EMI has had quite a storied history since its founding in 1931.
Mid-century rock and roll begins and ends with EMI, quite frankly, with acts like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Shadows, and Pink Floyd, Queen were all early followers of the cult of EMI.
These luminaries have a stable and enduring presence in modern music and they are behind many of today’s most influential commercial acts.
If you doubt their legacy, just know that they have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and they are the powerbrokers behind multiple Grammies.
They are not actively seeking out demos.
9. Transgressive Records
London as heck, and fiercely aligned to the sovereignty of independent music, Transgressive stages a sustained revolt against the status quo in all that they do.
If you’re a seasoned veteran of buzzy new releases and mischievous live performances then you know some of the artists in their stable like The Subways, Young Knives, Alvvays, and Mystery Jets.
Oh, and house electro international wunderkinds Flume.
They don’t pick favorites and they dabble gratuitously in electro, punk, indie-rock, dance-pop, and dream pop – not your garden variety independent label by any means.
Contact them via their contact form.
10. XL Recordings
The Guardian described them as a “who’s who of exciting crossover talent” which is an impressive accolade from Britain’s foremost cultural publication.
They don’t discriminate when it comes to the artists they court, as long as they have street cred, charisma, and the dynamism to charm commercial listeners.
Some of their buzziest acts include Vampire Weekend, MIA, Tyler, the Creator, and British juvenile delinquent Dizzee Rascal.
They also produced Adele’s dizzying magnum opus, 21.
XL seeks out artists with an audacious and uncompromising sense of self and a bold silhouette.
You can follow them on social media but they are not actively seeking out demos at the moment.
11. 9×9 Records
Embodying the cheeky, irreverent, revelatory elements inherent in the Liverpool cultural scene, 9X9 has a quirky charm and a razor-sharp focus on alternative and fresh sounds.
Whether you like eighties nostalgia, kitchen core, irreverent fizzy indie pop, or psychedelic acoustic, 9×9 wants to hear from you and bring your kitschy alchemy to the masses.
The stranger the better really, as they feature campy wonders like The Burning Hell, Whelligan, The High Rip, and Novelty Island in their inscrutable, vivid catalog.
Their defiance is neon and glittering, and they don’t flinch in the face of crass commercial pressures.
Be a part of the magic act by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Antipop Records
The name might suggest a certain intransigence and subversion, but Antipop focuses less on defiance and more on creation and fertilization.
DIY, relentless, and saturated with raw energy, Antipop works with artists who upend social norms and maintain an allegiance to cheeky originality.
Though they were founded in 2009, their street-level approach is straight out of the early punk scene with an anti-commercial, eff-the-man sensibility.
Don’t believe us?
They’ve recently released a raw and careening compilation of 24 choice cuts only available on Bandcamp or at live shows.
With bands like Sweet Deals on Surgery and Saltwater Injection on their roster, they truly practice the irreverence that they preach.
They do not currently have a submissions form but have a general inquiry and membership sign-up link.
Founded in the turbulent, intoxicating Britain in 1978, Mute has been nothing if not “idiosyncratic” since its brazen beginnings.
Founder Daniel Miller is still at the helm, making Mute his life’s work and the synthesis of his creative mission.
Synth has been foundational to their methodology and vision since the beginning, and they have been a crucial part of synth and the new wave’s enduring legacy in the twenty-first century.
One of their early treasures was new wave legends Depeche Mode and they have fearlessly stood behind the stubbornly original, remarkably prolific careers of Nick Cave and Moby.
Imbibe in their modern breed of artists by taking a Goldfrapp or Cabaret Voltaire record for a spin.
Send three or four of your best tracks to email@example.com.
14. Xtra Mile Recordings
Founded in 2003 by Charlie Caplowe Xtra Mile is confidently independent and dedicated to raising the profile of folk punk, alternative, and the woefully underrated hybrid of folk punk.
They are the label of working-class hero Billy Bragg and they take a distinctly populist, British approach to a creative industry dominated by America’s big shiny names.
Xtra Mile has a big ol’ love affair with vinyl and they are shameless promoters of a cut-n-paste, DIY ethos that all homegrown punks and outcasts will seamlessly gravitate towards.
Email these fearless bulwarks of London taste at firstname.lastname@example.org.
15. Alcopop! Records
A playful, unrepentant record label that lives and breathes the ethos that animates their work, Oxford-born Alcopop! Records are indie, campy, and kitsch at every turn.
They shamelessly search out indie artists of a political persuasion, and they are patently, riotously left-wing and pro-human rights.
Their sardonic, subversive sense of humor infuses all of their marketing, advertising, and PR strategies, and sets them apart from labels that veer on the safe, serious side.
Their best move yet?
They released an album titled The Wit and Wisdom of Nigel Farage that was completely silent.
Send ‘em a message at email@example.com.
16. Stolen Recordings
Tottenham cool cats Stolen won the AIM Award for Best Small Label in 2011, establishing their place at the table.
Their alt and indie rock taste is nothing if not eclectic, and they inject levity, poetry, and raucousness into the musical landscape in equal measures.
If you fancy yourself hipper and more academic than the rest then Stolen is probably the musical fraternity you seek.
Stolen is behind it-guy talents like Thomas Cohen and arthouse faves like East India Youth.
This record label is not currently accepting demos.
17. Southern Fried Records
Owned and founded by British music heavyweight Fatboy Slim, Southern Fried ruptures the margins of dance music and promotes an orthodoxy of delirium, hedonism, and unbridled mayhem.
Southern Fried is ground zero for the full sonic pageantry of electro, from indie to techno to house to dance.
You’ll be familiar with some of their trending acts like The Black Ghosts, Crookers, and Brighton Port Authority.
Always a label of the people, you can send a demo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
18. Memphis Industries
Founded in the navel-gazing nineties by brothers Ollie and Matt Jacob, Memphis wasn’t created to make major waves, but was rather an experimental pastime.
Their releases are of a decidedly laconic cadence, hinting at a restrained alchemy of vocals and instrumentals.
They’ve carved out a nice micro-niche for themselves with dream pop, spacey beats, chill lo-fi, and mellow indie pop – one of their first and best releases was Blue States’ Nothing Changes Under the Sun, a breezy synth sleeper hit.
Contact them via a contact form or at email@example.com.
19. Audio Antihero
Calling all the strangelings among us who live their creative lives in the shadows of the mainstream, and who prefer the dark spaces where they can cultivate unique forms and sounds without judgment.
Audio Antihero, as the name would suggest, is your happy place – a record label that promotes lo-fi, acid, indie, alt-rock, and any hybridized genre you so desire to create.
They currently have a mini-roster of 14 artists, exemplifying their preternaturally elusive DIY style, a quality that has not been overlooked by commentators at Pitchfork and BBC.
They are not currently looking for artists.
20. Skam Records
An unrivaled staple of Manchester’s thriving electronic music scene, Skam plays all sides of the electro divide: scrappy, gritty, lucid, and hallucinatory.
Cerebral downtempo legends Boards of Canada are part of their unconventional catalog of cult acts.
Founded in 1990, Skam captures the irreverent, fiercely untamed, and experimental ethos that has always weaved its way through Manchester’s creative life.
Despite the relentless rain and gloom, Manchester has a spirit that won’t be dampened, and it is best reflected in the luminous, DIY-inspired output of Skam.
Reach out to them via Twitter or Facebook.
21. Rocket Girl
The reigning idols of the lo-fi, quirky-core world, Rocket Girl celebrates all that is ambient, psychedelic, experimental, and whimsically inventive.
Their releases speak to a sensation of perpetual playfulness, defiant levity, and self-assurance.
In their own words, they have “no house style, no dedication to one particular genre.
There’s an ever-present mingling of melody, melancholia, and mind expansion.” Intriguing, no?
Groups like Bell Gardens and A Place to Bury Strangers, and God is an Astronaut give credence to their kitschy, nonplussed ethos.
Use their contact form to make a connection.
22. Young Turks
The Young Turks offer a vocabulary for the burgeoning indie electronica genre and enable their artists to cultivate their strange magic without interference.
The label grew out of all-night dance parties of the same name and they continue to embody the sense of adventure and laidback debauchery in their releases.
You’ll know their headliners like The xx and FKA Twigs acts that have invigorated a heretofore underdeveloped genre.
They “help exceptional artists locate and develop their genius” but they are not actively looking for artists.
23. Peacefrog Records
Peacefrog is a trenchant champion of techno and electronica, and while it dabbles in indie and folk, too, it never loses sight of a broader passion for unparalleled beats and synthy surprises.
Techno-electro acts like Luke Slater and Suburban Knights have a sustained buzz for those in the know, while José González has found more broad success with his folksy indie offerings.
But if indie is more your flavor, follow in the footsteps of dreamy artists like Little Dragon, Nouevlle Vague, and Moodymann who put a more lucid spin on electro.
Message these London cool kids at firstname.lastname@example.org.
24. Jacaranda Records
Liverpool countercultural wizards, Jacaranda is all about “reimagining” sound and cultivating an “immersive” label that liaises with street-level venues to create a multidimensional, fully-fleshed sonic experience.
Music never exists in a vacuum and is rather a carefully calibrated entity that responds to its environment and culture and no one knows this truism more intimately than Jacaranda.
In their own words, they provide a “disruptive antidote” to the stale and staid mainstream commercialism that reigns supreme in the post-industrial world.
Music runs in the DNA of both Liverpool and Jacaranda and they take a trenchantly hands-off approach to their artist’s creative expansion and journey, preferring to hang back and let the creators create.
Contact them via social media.
Founder Neil Jolliffe is considered the originator of the term “dubstep” and his London record label Tempa celebrates all the bizarre and delightfully unsettling currents the genre is capable of.
The U.K. garage dubstep hybrid that Tempa has always been at the forefront of is a distinctly British musical phenomenon and transformed what urban sonic culture meant for a new millennium.
Even casual observers know Skream and their trippy early dubstep jam “Midnight Request Line”, which positively lacerated the electro-status quo and ruptured preconceived ideas of what the underground could come up with.
Tempa keeps an intriguingly low profile though and is not vocally accepting new demos.
26. Big Condo Records
Big Condo got their big start with soul, R&B, and hip hop in Liverpool, championing genres that are often overlooked in the stomping ground of Brit-rock, but they have wildly expanded their original mandate.
A newcomer to the list, the label was founded in 2015 by Royzy Rothschild, who has an inborn thirst for developing talent and mentoring them through the full blossoming of their creative maturity.
Their work doesn’t end at production and distribution – they also liaise with community partners to promote music and they take part in philanthropic work to spread the gospel of good works and good taste.
They are seeking out radically hard-working artists who will go full-insomniac to put in the work to break into the industry.
Contact them or send a demo to email@example.com.
27. 3 Beat Records
3 Beat began their journey as a dance music record store at the tail-end of the eighties, and now they are Liverpool-based staples of the house, dance, and electronica scenes that so dominate the weekend undergrounds of the Northern cities.
In 2011, they achieved their first UK No. 1 single with “Loca People” by Sak Noel which helped them receive some of the accolades that they deserved, despite remaining an under-the-radar label.
Dance acts like Sigma and Anton Powers call 3 Beats home – contact them via social media.
Founded by Solardo, record label Sola is a giant in the tech-house underground scene in hip, rainy Manchester.
They have a Hi Ibiza residency under their belt and they have the full support of electronic cult heavyweights Boiler Room.
They are nothing if not prolific, sussing out new talents and dropping music weekly while building up a stable of convulsive, inimitable local musicians who bend and distort all conventions.
If inclusion in a mind-bogglingly fast-moving, high-voltage, unrepentant industry is the main goal on your musical vision board, then hop on a flight to Manchester and insert yourself into the heart of a blossoming, vital scene.
Contact them at their website.
Dubstep is a distinctly British iteration that grew up in the opening years of this century as lo-fi dropouts took over abandoned warehouses and eschewed polite society.
Melancholic, relentless, and occasionally despondent, dubstep under Hyperdub’s mentoring is always a strange and hypnotic piece of sonic art.
Run by Scottish DJ and producer Steve Goodman Hyperdub is unflinching in its pursuit of renegade beats, garage infusions, and tawdry house.
If it shatters norms and deviates from the mundane, it will come under Hyperdub’s authority, a truism best evidenced by the elusive, intriguing artist Burial.
Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
30. Visible Noise Records
A record label formed with a singular, laudable mission: to promote the full chaotic, charismatic, fervent British rock scene.
Founder Julie Weir maintained a tightly curated roster of talent in the indie, alt-rock, and melancholic hardcore spaces and ceaselessly promoted the British charisma and wit that is so inimitable.
One of their most enduring acts is shoegaze cult faves Bullet For My Valentine, a group that introduced this oh-so-British fizzy-sweet microgenre to a hungry, captivated world.
It appears that Visible Noise is currently defunct or on an extended hiatus.
Top UK Record Labels – Final Thoughts
If you’ve read carefully you’ve found a U.K. record label – or ten – that suits your own musical and intellectual philosophy.
Why not entrust your sonic gems with the tastemakers of the international music scene?
Give one of the U.K.’s best record labels a taste of your talent and thank me later!
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