Billboard Pro's D.I.Y. 50 Indie Labels (Part II)
Billboard Pro's D.I.Y. 50 Indie Labels (Part II)
Just Give Me Indie: Culling the list down to 50 American indie labels was no easy task...

Trying to get signed? Universal and Sony laugh you out the door? In Billboard's second-annual DIY Manual, we listed 20 great indie labels along with strategies on how best to pitch them. Here, Billboard Pro extends the list to include fifty American indie labels covering a wider swath of music genres from pop to Latin to house and more (in no particular order).

1. Tri Angle
When Robin Carolan started Tri Angle last year, the 24-year old had already been promoting his favorite tunes as a contributor to London-based avant blog 20 Jazz Funk Greats, but wanted a more active role. Fusing his penchants for both mainstream pop and all things dark, the label is an outpost for an emerging breed of electronic beats that are slow, ethereal, and entirely gripping.

LOCATION: New York & London

GENRE/SOUND: Electronic

2. Sacred Bones
Perhaps best known for discovering the hauntingly operatic Zola Jesus, the catalog of this enigmatic Brooklyn label boasts various breeds of post-punk and experimental pop, strung with a thread that's at once dark, industrial, and surprisingly sophisticated.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Experimental pop, post-punk, electronic

3. Goner Records
Launched in 1993 by Zac Ives and Eric Friedl of the prominent '90s garage punk band the Oblivians, Goner is a label and record shop with a track record of showcasing the best in gritty, underground garage, having released vinyl LPs for the likes of Ty Segall, King Khan & BBQ Show, and the late Jay Reatard.


GENRE/SOUND: Garage rock & punk

4. Hippos in Tanks
This one-year old LA vinyl outpost is as weird and beat-heavy as their name (taken from an obscure 1954 novel by Kerouac and Burroughs) might suggest. Fusing the spirit of '80s Detroit techno with a propensity for contemporary abstract, the label is a treasure trove for alternative dance music and experimental electronic, with releases from artists like Laurel Halo, Games, Von Haze, and Gatekeeper.

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

GENRE/SOUND: Electronic, alternative dance music

5. Slow Motion Soundz
Self-described as "an entertainment research and development company," this Alabama outpost has released music for up-and-comers G-side, whose laidback rhymes are paired with beats from labelmate Block Beataz, who often samples lush, atmospheric pop artists like Beach House and Enya.

LOCATION: Huntsville, AL


6. Night-People
For eight years, visual artist and musician Shawn Reed has documented the global underground scene with his hyper-indie vinyl-and-tape label, providing equal attention to album art, recalling a gritty '80s underground punk aesthetic; each cover is silk-screened and hand assembled at his Iowa City home in true DIY fashion. Recent releases have included early tapes from buzzy break-through pop artists Dirty Beaches and EMA.


GENRE/SOUND: Pop, punk, experimental, lo-fi, garage

7. Mello Music Group
Mello is an 'intelligent' hip-hop and electronic label with a smooth, out-of-the-box approach, best known for the free rhymes and dream-like, neo-soul compositions of DC's Oddissee.


GENRE/SOUND: Hip-hop, electronic

8. Underwater Peoples
Launched in 2009 with a 7-inch from New Jersey band Real Estate, Underwater Peoples is a quintessential blog-era pop label, run by four friends who met at George Washington University. Its early releases showcased the best of the long-percolating pop scene in founder Evan Brody's native Ridgewood, New Jersey, but the catalog has grown to include vinyl releases from bands as disparate as Australian band the Twerps and the kosmiche-inspired Brooklyn electronic group La Big Vic.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY & Ridgewood, NJ

GENRE/SOUND: Pop, lo-fi

9. HoZac
Since 2006, this Chicago vinyl label has focused on endearingly distorted, underground rock'n'roll, reminding us why an ears-to-the-ground approach to music pays off-they released the first LP from recent break-out band Smith Westerns in 2009, as well as the debut EP 7" EP from LA popsmiths Dum Dum Girls, now with Sub Pop, in 2008.


GENRE/SOUND: Garage, indie rock & pop

10. Infinity Cat
For nine years, this tiny Nashville imprint has been run by recent breakout rockers JEFF the Brotherhood-brothers Jake and Jamin Orall-and their dad, Robert Orall, a major-label producer and songwriter for Taylor Swift, among others. The label has been home to the first Be Your Own Pet releases as well as many Nashville garage acts. Although JEFF recently signed a major-label distribution deal with Warner Brothers for their new, critically acclaimed record We Are The Champions, the label remains a DIY venture.

LOCATION: Nasvhille

GENRE/SOUND: Garage rock

11. Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni isn't a household name, but when founders Joe Steinhardt and Zach Gajewski launched the label as students at Boston University in 2004, that was hardly their intention-they set out to document the New Brunswick basement punk scene, and have become recognized throughout the underground DIY punk community for indie rock and punk releases from the likes of Shellshag, The Ergs!, and the critically-acclaimed Screaming Females.

LOCATION: New Brunswick, NJ

GENRE/SOUND: Punk, pop-punk, indie rock

12. Nacional
Self-described as "the new sounds of Latin music," this alternative Latin outpost, launched by veteran manager Tomas Cookman (Manu Chao, Tom Tom Club) in 2005, avoids Americanized interpretations of the genre. The catalog includes Grammy-nominated Tijuana techno ensemble Nortec Collective, Colombian pop group Aterciopelados, and Barcelona natives-turned-Warped Tour vets the Pinker Tones-which all explains their major-label distribution deal with Warner.

North Hollywood, CA


13. Ghostly International
Growing up in the '90s, founder Samuel Valenti's proximity to Detroit helped him discover the worlds of underground hip-hop, techno and electronic, a culmination of which were showcased on his label's first single in 1999, "Hands Up for Detroit" by Matthew Dear, who also helped launch the Italo disco-inspired label. Ghostly continues today with a broad electronic palette ranging from ambient to more pop-oriented, proto-electro works, while their Spectral Sound imprint focuses on dance floor-oriented techno and synth-pop releases.

LOCATION: Ann Arbor, Michigan

GENRE/SOUND: Electronic, minimal techno

14. Fool's Gold
The four-year-old project of DJs A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs, Fool's Gold is an independent label boasting a catalog of major artists, including debut singles from Kid Cudi and Kid Sister.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Hip-hop, electronic, dance pop

15. Acony
After folk singer Gillian Welch's former label Almo Sounds was purchased by Universal in 2005, she started this imprint, named for a rare Appalachian wildflower, for her own music and that of her musical partner, Dave Rawlings. They signed LA indie-folk group Whispertown 2000 in 2008.

LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee


16. Asthmatic Kitty
This indie rock label was founded by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams in 1999, and has since released albums for the likes of experimental singers My Brightest Diamond and Julianna Barwick. The label's Library Catalogue Music Series releases instrumental and ambient records.

LOCATION: Lander, WY; Indianapolis, IN; Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Indie rock, folk, experimental

17. Kanine Records
A catalog boasting the likes of Grizzly Bear, Surfer Blood, Chairlift, Braids, and Dream Diary might make them the most inoffensive and vanilla indie pop label in Williamsburg, but they're also one of the most successful.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Indie rock and pop

18. Slumberland Records
This 21-year old, DC-bred indie-pop label documented some of the best in '90s fuzz-pop (Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl) at a time when print 'zines and mail-order catalogs defined the indie underground. After remaining largely inactive from 2001 to 2006, the label returned to release material from a new generation they'd helped inspire, like Crystal Stilts and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.



19. Ba Da Bing
Ben Goldberg launched Ba Da Bing while in college in 1994 with his band's own 7-inch single, and after stints working as a publicist for big-time indies like Matador and Merge, went on to release the debut album from Beruit in 2006. In 2010, Ba Da Bing released Epic, the breakout record from singer-songwriter Sharon van Etten.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Indie rock

20. Temporary Residence
This Baltimore-bred, Brooklyn-based label releases music of the post-rock and experimental vein, and is best known for picking up on Explosions in the Sky, for whom they've released records since 2001.

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

GENRE/SOUND: Post-rock, experimental, indie

21. Woodsist
When Woods frontman Jeremy Earl founded Woodsist in 2006 for his band's own home-recorded tunes-a mix of experimental freak-outs and pop gems-and works of likeminded friends like Vivian Girls, Wavves, and Real Estate, he may not have anticipated his label and band would come to define the sound of the Brooklyn underground, but they did. He now works and resides in upstate New York.


GENRE/SOUND: Indie, punk, lo-fi

22. Frenchkiss Records

Home to acts as disparate as lush folkies the Antlers and electro-pop Passion Pit, Frenchkiss was founded by Les Savy Fav bassist Syd Butler in 1999 for the sake of releasing his own band's second album. The label's mainstream appeal explains why their releases are distributed by Sony.


GENRE/SOUND: Indie rock, folk rock, electro-pop

23. Load

Best known for releases from the genre-defining noise band Lightning Bolt since 1997, the abrasive and avant-garde quality that permeates this label explains why one writer called its catalog "the world's most challenging."

LOCATION: Providence, RI

GENRE/SOUND: Noise, experimental, metal

24. Merge Records
On paper, the 21-year old Merge hardly qualifies as "indie": their release of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs won the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, and their catalog includes seminal indie rock artists like Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub. But its founders, Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan of pioneering indie rockers Superchunk, helped define this genre.

LOCATION: Chapel Hill, NC

GENRE/SOUND: Indie rock

25. Paw Tracks
Paw Tracks originally dropped records exclusively from its founders, Animal Collective, but in 2004 began releasing works from concurring psychedelic pop innovators like lo-fi pioneer Ariel Pink, Black Dice, and most recently Prince Rama.

LOCATION: Washington, DC

GENRE/SOUND: Avant-garde, psychedelic

This is part I of II of our 50 Best Indie Labels in America piece. To read part II, click here.