It’s easy to think of terms like “the music industry” and “record labels” in the same vein as some evil faceless corporation that plays the role of the villain in a spy thriller. In fact, there are probably plenty of big labels that are thoroughly deserving of such infamy. But it’s not all just businessmen in suits looking to make money, there are plenty of smaller labels out there that are dedicated to helping artists grow and sharing great music with the world. Normally I don’t pay too much mind to labels, but when you see the same name pop up time and time again besides artists you love you suddenly start to sit up and take notice. I spend plenty of time writing about the music I love and the artists I admire, so I thought it was high-time I gave a shout out to the labels that keep the wheels turning and make sure all that great art reaches our ears.
It doesn’t make an appearance on the site as much as I’d like, but I bloody love progressive rock. Porcupine Tree, one of my favourite bands, played a key role in establishing my love for the genre. By delving into their earlier work and that of frontman Steven Wilson I found Kscope, one of the two main prog labels. With acts on their roster often exploring the more atmospheric and introspective side of the genre, the label has given life to some of the most moving records I’ve ever come across. It’s also home to acts with great pop sensibilities to ensure new listeners are given a gateway into the genre and can tread the same path of discovery that I once did.
Notable Acts: Anathema, The Anchoress, Iamthemorning, The Pineapple Thief
I can’t mention one prog label without the other, the two are like yin and yang. While Kscope is like the soft spray of waves crashing on the shore, a siren song drawing you out to sea, Inside Out is the open ocean. It’s home to majestic giants, as well as the otherworldly creatures of the deep. Heavy, bizarre, sometimes baffling, but always interesting, their roster reads like a circus from P.T. Barnum’s mad scientist alter ego. At the cutting edge of progressive metal, Inside Out is home to all kinds of weird and wonderful creations.
Notable Acts: Bent Knee, Caligula’s Horse, Devin Townsend, Haken
This label has probably had more albums in our annual top ten lists than any other. There’s a lot of talk about landfill indie these days, and to be fair there are a lot of bands that seem to follow a similar cut and paste formula. In my experience Bella Union is home to the artful indie bands, the ones that break the mould. The artists that seemingly chug along at the own pace, content to make the music that they want to make, unconcerned with what anyone thinks. Bella Union is the home of that effortlessly cool and mysterious stranger that you only get a passing glance of, but end up never forgetting.
Notable Acts: Father John Misty, Lanterns on the Lake, Money
Any regular visitors of Belwood Music will know of our love for Barn on the Farm Festival, and it seems the Venn diagram of members of the Communion family and BotF favourites is practically a circle. Though they have probably had more impact as promoters and publishers than through the label itself, the fact remains that a vast amount of music that I love can draw a direct line back to Communion in some way. They are the beating heart of London’s music scene, a warm and welcoming home for talented artists, and the world would be a much darker place without them.
Notable Acts: Bear’s Den, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Lucy Rose, Matthew and the Atlas
The vast majority of music that finds its way into my inbox comes direct from either London or LA, so it’s easy to get caught in a UK/US bubble, but great music can come from anywhere. Some of my all time favourite submissions have come from Norway, and nearly all of them have been on Jansen records. If you were to hand me the aux cord at a party, or ask for recommendations of songs to add to your latest playlist, odds are there would be a few Norwegian gems in there. I always look forward to seeing another Jansen release in my inbox as they haven’t let me down yet.
Notable Acts: Darling West, Hajk, Torgeir Waldemar