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Know Your Labels: 5 Record Labels Started by Bands

I have a real soft spot when it comes to bands that started record labels to release their own albums. Many undoubtedly started as a means to exert complete creative control over the release of their music, but then shifted to add like-minded artists and bands to their roster to become genre-leading powerhouses in their own right. There's a certain "I can do this better myself" attitude that probably plays heavily into the decision to go it alone, but at least in the cases below, that seems to be true. I've chosen to highlight just a tiny fraction of these labels in this article; some you have likely heard of, and some that you may not have. Below are 6 labels that were started by the bands and artists themselves, in no particular order.

1. Alternative Tentacles

Founded in 1979, Alternative Tentacles was the creation of Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and guitarist East Bay Ray. The label served as a launchpad for their single, "California Über Alles", quickly followed by the full LP "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". It wasn't much longer before Alternative Tentacles began to release a smattering of 7" records from pivotal acts like Black Flag, Flipper, and D.O.A. According to the label's own website, "Alternative Tentacles remains a vital and abundant source of punk rock, hardcore, spoken word artistry and a wealth of other genres." They are unquestionably one of the most influential labels in punk rock, and their website continues to boast announcements of new bands, records, and tours.

2. Flightless

No modern list would be complete without mentioning Australia's own Flightless records, borne from band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. The band was unable to procure a record deal via the traditional route and took the term DIY to heart, famously shipping early releases in empty pizza boxes. In just 10 years, the influence of Flightless has only continued to grow, as they continue to release quality music and have even shifted some of their distribution practices to be more environmentally-conscious, influencing others to do the same.

3. Dischord

Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson formed Dischord as teenagers in 1980 to release their then-band Teen Idles, prior to forming Minor Threat. Dischord is the godfather of all DIY hardcore labels, forging a path where none existed, placing their mission of getting the music of the D.C. scene into the hands of teenagers above all else. The label has become one of the most recognized hardcore labels, and has continued to be a launchpad for Mackaye's projects, such as Fugazi, Coriky and the Evens.

4. TPOS Records

Danbury Connecticut's own TPOS records, founded by the multitalented Malcom Tent, was created in 1984 to launch Mr. Tent's band Broken Talent into the universe. The label operated out of its home base, the record store Trash American Style, until the brick and mortar store was forced to close in 2007. Despite the store's closure, both the store and the label continue to operate online.

TPOS boasts multiple releases from a broad spectrum of musicians like Antiseen, Sonic Youth, GG Allin, and Profanatica.

5. Amphetamine Reptile Records

In a similar tradition, Tom Hazelmeyer founded Amphetamine Reptile Records in 1986 to release his band Halo of Flies. The label's releases are now some of the most sought-after albums in the noise-rock genre, including artists like The Jesus Lizard, Helmet, Mudhoney, Superchunk, and Killdozer, among other.


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