DA Presents: Rising artist-owned labels to watch
Though it seems impossible given the state of today’s dance music landscape, there was once a time when the promise of difference making distribution and influence wasn’t the business of artists themselves. The concept of a prominent electronic musician founding their own imprint isn’t new ground for the industry – Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak, for example, dates back to 1996 – but those ventures were the Davids of the day amongst industry titans like Ultra. Then, a funny thing happened: dance music hit the United States like a tidal wave in the late aughts and early twenty-tens. Names like Avicii and Skrillex were suddenly taking the US scene to new and sonically diverse heights. Future powerhouses OWSLA and Mau5trap, for example, were founded in this wave and ushered in a new landscape. Labels like these have not only continued to reach impressive heights in the charts, but also inspired a new crop young and scene-defining names to create their own labels and collective imprints. Here are DA’s most formidable fast rising artist labels of the moment:
It’s hard to believe San Holo‘s bitbird venture is just five years old. The Dutch imprint has been so much more than a ticket to creative freedom for the future bass maverick, demonstrating a dogged determination to shine a light on boundary pushing talent. Its resident artists poured in stellar music all year long, including DROLOE‘s crunchy pop offering, “Many Words” and the sublimely mellow Cute EP from duskus – not to mention the boss man’s revelatory debut album. Beyond the stable of impressive names is the refreshing breadth of genres the label welcomes and showcases, ranging from EDM to electronic classical. The running mission statement of bitbird is “create forever,” and it’s safe to say the world of electronic music will only benefit from that ethos continuing to see fruition.
This Never Happened
After years of stellar and emotional progressive house on Anjunadeep, Lane 8 created This Never Happened in 2016 as a self-guided label home. The imprint originated from his desire to provide live experiences for fans without the spell-breaking distraction of smart phones and cameras. For Lane 8, getting back to what matters means getting back to the music, and how powerfully artists and fans can connect when they both get lost in it. That ethos is refreshing enough on its own, but Lane 8 has already curated an array of extraordinary talent for the TNH roster. Through a compilation series titled Root To Branch, TNH has shed on light talented newcomers including Enamour, Anderholm, and more. With a slew of roster names slated to appear on Little By Little Remixed with their own takes on the boss’s sophomore opus, the label continues to operate as a tight knit collective making art and experiences in the name of total immersion.
Producers don’t get more dynamic than Mat Zo. After detonating on the trance game with a stellar string of releases on Anjunabeats that culminated in his dazzling debut album Damage Control, the multi-genre mastermind struck out on his own in 2014 with the founding of his Mad Zoo imprint. Since its inception, the label has been a haven for fellow genre trailblazers like The M Machine and WAVEDASH. Today the roster is brimming over with unbelievable talent across bass music, synth pop, and everything in between. Mat Zo’s eclectic taste and music-first mindset has lead to the signings of rising stars including Krayysh, Shadient, Counsel Pop, and many more. Its releases and direction recently earned a resounding endorsement from Porter Robinson, and the collective shows no signs of slowing down.
Premiere Classe Records
Since DJ Snake first the EDM scene on its head with the release of “Turn Down For What” in 2013, the French producer has been a factory of festival smashing tunes. This year, the globetrotter officially opened up shop with his own label, Premiere Classe label. Even with the short runway, the imprint’s releases have already taken off in a big way. The releases started off with a hectic main stage weapon in 4B and Teez’s “Whistle,” and haven’t been anything short of scintillating since. Monster productions from SAYMYNAME, Shanghai superstar Chace, and electro maven Masayoshi Iimori have the label ahead of schedule. DJ Snake’s growing crew already has fans clamoring for the next surefire party starter.
Zeds Dead‘s place in the pantheon of bass music is unquestioned, and the Toronto-based duo decided to use their platform to put on the latest and greatest in the heavier genres of dance music by founding their own Deadbeats imprint in 2016. The first compilation had future superstars on board on REZZ, and the label hasn’t stopped breaking the next big thing ever since. Monster tracks from names like Yookie and Chuurch highlighted a massive 2017, and this year has been more of the same with the introduction of the mysterious mad genius known as 1788-L. The roster is currently demolishing venues across North America on a tour that pairs legends like 12th Planet with new roster additions like LICK. Should fans survive their local Deadbeats lineup, they can without question look forward to the undisputed destructive quality the label has already generated a reputation for signing.
Get Hype Records
After the smash hit of their debut album, City of Gold, UK drum & bass maestros The Prototypes decided to strike out on their own. With several high-profile releases on the likes of Viper Recordings, UKF, RAM Records, and Shogun Audio under their belts, the Brighton-based pair formed Get Hype Records in 2016. Chris Garvey and Nick White cited wanting full creative independence as their reason for the new endeavor, and have been adding to their roster ever since. The imprint’s first release, “Rocket Gunz Blazin’,” debuted on Friction’s BBC Radio 1 show, catapulting the label into the spotlight with its unmistakably colossal qualities the duo have become known for in their productions. Since then, artists like Glitch City, Malux, Heist, and more have joined the Get Hype movement. All of the label’s MP3 releases are given away for free, and proceeds made through other means are used to support artists making music in the future.
Jeremy Olander‘s place in the more ethereal realms of dance music is well documented, having skyrocketed to prominence as one of the stars of Eric Prydz‘s Pryda Friends roster. In 2015, the Swedish producer announced the formation of his own Vivrant imprint with his sublime Taiga EP as its inaugural release. In the years since, Vivrant has become home to some of the most exciting releases in across techno, progressive, and deep house. Names like Eekkoo, André Hommen, and Khen set the bar high from the jump, alongside deeply creative music from the boss himself. 2018 has been another year of carefully curated top shelf tunes, culminating in a stellar remix package of Olander’s Caravelle EP featuring swift rising Spanish techno star Marino Canal. The label has kept its output succinct and consistently top tier, and the payoff is an ever-growing fan community ready to pounce on the latest and greatest projects and artists coming from the Swedish imprint.
Love him or hate him, J. Cole is unquestionably a hip hop force to be reckoned with. The rapper is unquestionably in it for the love of the game, and that motivation can be heard and felt all over his own Dreamville imprint. New Cole world projects are often certified cultural moments in music, but his own label is much more than a custom footnote for his album liners. The roster is booming with hip hop and R&B trailblazers like introspective rhyme smith Bas and DC-based R&B songstress Ari Lennox. Cole’s dedication to the imprint roster was even able to convince notoriously label-suspicious Atlanta duo EARTHGANG to sign. Dreamville’s current roster is a hotbed of underrated and over-talented creativity, and sky’s the limit as Cole’s growing legend sheds well deserved light on their projects.
In the world of melodic progressive house, trance, and deep house, Above & Beyond’s Anjuna imprints are a dominating force – but Guy J has turned his Lost & Found label into a powerhouse player in its own right. His expertly trained ear and wealth of know-how has stewarded a dazzling array of recent releases from names like Budakid,Chicola, and more, each stamped with an indelible attention to sonic detail and knack for melody. Lost & Found is a haven for talent first and foremost, with a genre bending attitude showcasing everything from classic progressive house to melodic techno. With Guy J steering the ship, it’s unlikely the imprint will do anything but accelerate into 2019.
Foreign Family Collective
ODESZA‘s Foreign Family Collective is still barely over three years old. Letting that sink in is an honest-to-god feat, considering the effect the imprint has already had on the music world. The labels third ever release was Jai Wolf‘s breakthrough track “Indian Summer,” which is still the artist’s biggest hit to date with over 60 million streams on Spotify alone. Soon after came RÜFÜS DU SOL‘s debut Bloom LP, and the list goes on and on. Now in its third year, Kasbo, Big Wild, and Louis Futon all call FFC home. Operating across the spectrum of lush electronica, Foreign Family Collective has developed a well deserved rep for identifying the latest talent across various stylings. The hit rate thus far has been borderline insane, and if their track record is any indicator, another landmark FCC release is just around the corner.
Photo credit: Rukes