The top 15 independent record labels in Toronto
Independent record labels in Toronto are the backbone of the city's thriving and diverse music culture. Whether it's hosting various festivals, sponsoring shows or exposing up and coming artists, indie record labels are the driving force that pushes the development of Toronto's music scene.
Here are my picks for the top independent record labels in Toronto.
Arts & Crafts Records
The premier indie rock label in Toronto features artists such as Broken Social Scene, F*cked Up and Badbadnotgood. They've made quite a name for themselves through the annual Field Trip festival that showcases many of their artists.
Dine Alone Records
This label has been represents some of Canada's best rock and punk bands such as Alexisonfire, City and Colour and Arkells. They also have a travelling record store, aptly named "Wax On Wheels" that they take on the road to promote their artists at various festivals and events.
Paper Bag Records
This label has helped give some great indie rock bands major success. In their first year of operations, Paper Bag signed Broken Social Scene and released their commercial breakthrough album "You Forgot It in People". They've gone on to represent acts such as Sam Roberts Band, Born Ruffians and Tokyo Police Club.
Pretty Pretty Records
Pretty Pretty Records is the brainchild of three Canadian DJ's and their monthly dance party at the Comfort Zone. After releasing their first LP in late 2012, Kontravoid's (ex Crystal Castles) self titled full length, Pretty Pretty Records have been continuously releasing some of Toronto's best dark techno records from artists such as SINS and Kane Vale.
Six Shooter Records
Six Shooter Records' motto, "life is too short to listen to shitty music", matches with their artist roster in an interesting way. Their artists put a huge amount of effort into each release and people have been taking notice. Their roster includes 2014 Polaris Music Prize winner Tanya Tagaq and 2012 Juno nominees The Strumbellas.
New Damage Records
New Damage has been showcasing some really great hardcore bands such as Cancer Bats, Architects and Silverstein and have had a strong presence in Toronto's punk scene. They host many different showcases for their artists such as the Stay Warm Fest.
Public Transit Recordings
This label has been exposing Toronto's underground electronic and hip hop artists such as emcee More Or Les and minimalist house artist Murr since 1998. Label founders and producers Kevin Moon and Mano Narayanan started PTR while listening to raw demo tapes on their subway rides when they decided to expose their friends' music internationally.
Last Gang Records
Last Gang Records don't limit themselves to any specific genre but rather represent some of Canada's trendsetting artists such as Death From Above 1979, Crystal Castles and Metric. Last Gang bring a lot of international exposure to their artists through their offices in London and Los Angeles and have been featured on major TV shows, movie and commercials.
With a passion for vinyl and cassettes, Pleasence Records have worked tirelessly to uncover some of the best underground experimental acts in Canada. While they don't represent a specific genre, they show a strong passion for garage rock and odd punk bands such as Odonis Odonis, The Ketamines and Young Governor.
Royal Mountain Records
Royal Mountain Records feature DIY focused artists mostly from Toronto of many different genres such as indie rock act Alvvays, punk band PUP and alt-rock crew Hollerado. They even have a budget friendly studio in Toronto where they record most of their artists as well as other bands looking for a cheap spot to record quality music.
This electronic music label was one of the first to prominently feature a pro LGBT attitude - they've had a huge role in shaping not only the after hours club scene, but also the LGBT scene. Stickman have released numerous mixes from artists such as Toronto dance scene vet Denise Benson and New York artist Soul Grabber.
Originally operating from 1989-99, No Love shut down so owner Jakob Rehlinger could start his avant-garde label, Arachnidiscs Recordings. After getting enough punk submissions to Arachnidiscs, No Love made its return with releases from bands such as The Holy Gasp and Everything Is Geometry.
Ugly Pop Records
Ugly Pop Records are a long running hardcore punk record label that only releases albums on vinyl. They've lent a helping hand in the Canadian punk scene by reissuing dozens of classic Canadian punk albums and new material from up and coming hardcore bands such as The Victim Party, Nervous Talk and SFH.
Healing Power Records
This label is the love child of owners Wolfgang Nessel and Victoria Cheong who also play in the ever soothing electronic act HVYWTR. This DIY label puts in ridiculous amounts of work to release albums from some really interesting local and international psychedelic and experimental bands such as Skull Bong and New Chance.
Acting as a collective, Bakers Club has released numerous mixtapes and albums since their beginnings in 2009 from artists like The 6th Letter, ChillxWill and Raz Fresco. Bakers Club represents underground Toronto hip hop as a community with their artists often collaborating and performing together.
What did I miss? Add your favourite Toronto independent record label to the comments.
Writing by Joe Smith-Engelhardt. Photo of Alvvays by Matt Forsythe.
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