10 of the Best Independent Pop Record Labels

Platinum record

Dimitris Meletis/Getty Images

A record label is the brand name for a music release. Record labels are responsible for the manufacture, distribution, and promotion of a particular recording. The major record labels, large mulit-national corporate conglomerations, control a majority of music sales around the world. However, some of the most innovative music is released by independent record labels. Here are the top 10 to know.


4AD Logo


4AD is a British independent label formed in 1979 as Axis Records by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, two employees of the legendary Beggars Banquet record store. The label's most noted 1980s releases included Modern English's "I Melt With You" and the top 10 smash by M|A|R|R|S "Pump Up the Volume." In recent years 4AD has remained on the cutting edge of pop and alternative music releasing works by Deerhunter and Grimes. Among 4AD's key artists today are:

  • Deerhunter
  • Grimes
  • The National
  • Purity Ring




Domino is a British independent label formed in 1993. It took the label a decade to truly find its footing, but 2005 was a landmark year for Domino. Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better hit #1 on the UK album chart and the Arctic Monkey's "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" was a #1 pop singles chart smash. Key label artists include:

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Dirty Projectors
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Hot Chip

Entertainment One

Entertainment One Logo

Entertainment One

Entertainment One purchased Koch Entertainment in 2005. The company is an international corporation that distributes film, television, and music content. EOne Music US is the largest independent label in North America. Releases range widely across a number of music genres. Key current artists include:

  • Foxy Brown
  • The Game
  • Jake Miller
  • Michelle Williams


Epitaph Logo


Epitaph Records was founded in the 1980's by guitarist Brett Gurewitz of pioneering punk band Bad Religion. Initially, the label existed primarily to promote Bad Religion's own music. By the early 1990s, the label was playing a key role in the punk revival which included bands like The Offspring and Rancid. After 2000 Epitaph invested strongly in punk pop releasing recordings by bands that included From First To Last and You Me At Six. Key artists on the label today are:

  • Desaparecidos
  • Falling In Reverse
  • Motion City Soundtrack
  • Sleeping With Sirens


Glassnote Logo


Glassnote Records was formed in 2007 by noted music executive Daniel Glass. The label quickly gained attention with the 2009 release of the album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by French indie pop group Phoenix. It earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. In 2011 Glassnote launched Mumford and Sons to international stardom. The band's 2012 album Babel gave the label its first Grammy Award winning Album of the Year. Key current artists include:

  • Chvrches
  • Foy Vance
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Oberhofer

Mad Decent

Mad Decent Logo

Mad Decent

Dance music DJ, artist, and producer Diplo put together the Mad Decent label in 2005. In 2010 he moved the label from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Mad Decent helped popularize the moombahton dance music genre.The first big hit on the label was Baauer's viral success "Harlem Shake." In 2015 the label released two top 10 pop smah hits "Where Are U Now?" by Skrillex and Diplo featuring Justin Bieber and "Lean On" by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MO. Mad Decent's current artists include:

  • Dillon Francis
  • Diplo
  • Major Lazer

Mom + Pop

Mom + Pop Logo

Mom + Pop

Music executive Michael Goldstone put together the Mom + Pop label in New York City in 2008. One of the first artists signed to the label was singer-songwriter Joshua Radin who released three consecutive top 40 charting albums on Mom + Pop. Singer-songwriter Andrew Bird broke into the top 10 of the album chart with 2012's Break It Yourself on Mom + Pop. Ingrid Michaelson reached the top 10 at adult pop radio with 2014's single "Girls Chase Boys." Key current artists include:

  • Courtney Barnett
  • Ingrid Michaelson


mute Records Logo

mute Records

British music producer launched Mute Records in 1978. The label played a key role in the development of electronic pop music in the 1980s. Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Yaz all gained international success releasing recordings on Mute. Goldfrapp's international success in 2005 continued Mute's electronic pop success. In 2002 major label EMI bought Mute, but it became an independent once again 2010. Among the key artists currently on the label are:

  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • New Order

Sub Pop

Sup Pop Logo

Sup 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:

  • Beach House
  • Father John Misty
  • Sleater-Kinney


XL Recordings Logo

XL Recordings

XL Recordings is a British independent label that began as a dance music offshoot of Beggars Banquet Records in 1989. The label's first big British chart successes came with electronic music band The Prodigy in the 1990s. Early in the next decade XL released landmark albums by The White Stripes. In recent years XL has earned acclaim as one of the world's best independent labels through releases by Adele, Radiohead, and Vampire Weekend. Current key artists include:

  • Adele
  • Radiohead
  • Vampire Weekend
  • Jack White
  • The xx