14 Artists Who Launched Their Own Labels

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There are few relationships more delicate than those between an artist and a record label. Freedoms can be compromised and creativity can be staunched. There’s also that little problem of the money. No matter the issue, it seems as if labels and musicians are often coming to blows. In light of Kid Cudi’s recent announcement that he would be leaving Dream On—a label he helped launch in partnership with Motown—we’re looking at artists who decided they could do a better job running a label on their own.

1. Kid Cudi – TBD

Kid Cudi took to Twitter to announce his split from his managers and departure from Dream On, a partnership with Motown and Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. The rapper will be creating a label, currently unnamed, with collaborative partner Dot Da Genius.

“”Pat and Emile are doing their own thing, i wish them well. I have a diff vision, for music, for the world. im just doing the right thing, i come from a different place. people lose sight of the mission. cant expect everyone to be built like me. when people have different visions, you gotta go your own way.” via Billboard.

2. Cake – Upbeat Records

Cake left Columbia Records in 2004 after the release of Pressure Chief. The band started their own label, Upbeat Records, to have their independence and because they didn’t feel that a major label was the place for them.

“The music business is sort of in collapse right now, so it struck us that we didn’t want to be tied to the sinking ship. Also, our culture was so markedly different than the culture that we found ourselves having to interact with at a major label.” via Paste Magazine.

3. OK Go – Paracadute

A year ago OK Go announced they would be leaving EMI Music and creating their own label, Paracadute. In a statement on their website the quirky band explained why they were leaving and the future of their new venture.

“Paracadute is really just a way for the boys to continue doing what they’ve always done. Which is whatever they want. Being OK Go just got a little bit easier.”

4. Prince – NPG Records

Prince created his own label NPG Records and released music independently through his Internet subscription service, NPG Music Club, after leaving Warner Bros. The artist had already created Paisley Park Records, which had gotten shut down. He remains independent, releasing his music through his label and often distributing through major labels such as Arista, Universal and Columbia.

5. Wilco – dBpm Records

Wilco left their label Nonesuch in the summer of 2010 without knowing whether or not they would create their own label. Jeff Tweedy and bandmates recently announced dBpm Records, which hosts the band and individual members’ side projects. Wilco also recently announced a string of tour dates.

“”This is an idea we’ve discussed for years,” bandleader Jeff Tweedy said in a statement. “We really like doing things ourselves, so having our own label feels pretty natural to me. And, to be working with ANTI- a label that has its roots in a label that was started by a punk rock guy to sell his own records seems like a perfect fit for us.” via Pitchfork.

6. Gretchen Wilson – Redneck Records

Gretchen Wilson left Columbia Nashville in 2009 and created Redneck Records where she released her fourth studio album, I Got Your Country Right Here.

“My management and I looked at a lot of different options over the last couple of months, and starting Redneck Records made the most sense to continue the relationships I’ve built with radio, retail and the fans,” said Gretchen. “This is a really exciting time in my life, and I’m looking forward to everyone hearing my new music.” via Music Row

7. The Rolling Stones – Rolling Stone Records

The Rolling Stones formed their own company Rolling Stone Records in 1970 after the band’s contracts with Decca Records and Allen Klein ended. When the band signed with Virgin Records in 1992 their label was discontinued.

8. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Richter Scale

Trail of Dead left Interscope in 2007 over what we can only identify as irreconcilable differences. Singer Conrad Keely explained the departure in a post on the bands website. Trail of Dead released their new album, Tao of the Dead, in February through their label Richter Scale. Check out our Ryan Reed’s review.

“So as has already been announced, ...Trail of Dead has once again made history, this time being the first band to drop Interscope. OK, we’re not the first. Actually, Trent Reznor beat us to it. Let’s just say we’re the first rock band to do so… this year. Ever since label head Jimmy Iovine started dating the lead singer guy of the Pussycat Dolls it became impossible to get him on the phone, so that was a first bad sign. Then their idea of marketing became keeping it a secret that we’d released a record.” via Exclaim!

9. RJD2 – RJ’s Electrical Connections

DJ RJD2 left label indie label XL to create his own label RJ’s Electrical Connections in 2009.

In an interview with A.V. Club RJD2 spoke about his label and signing new talents.
“I’m open to it, but this comes back to the sustainability thing. I’m not an aspiring Ahmet Ertegen or Clive Davis. I’m not an A&R; I’m a guy who makes records. If I find some great records that need to get put out and it’s the right time to do it, I’m more than willing, but if the only thing I ever put out is my own records, that is perfectly fine with me.”

10. Jim James – Removador Recordings and Solutions

Jim James of My Morning Jacket created Removador Recordings and Solutions. Currently, MMJ and Jim James alter-ego, Yim Yames, are listed on both the Removador roster, as well as their home label ATO. The band and Yames are actually releasing their music through both labels. Removador is also home to Wax Fang, Follow the Train and other artists.

James spoke to Paste about the new label in 2010. “Anyone who comes to invest in or own a share of the Removador name will not only find some of the coldest music they ain’t never heard, they will be provided with a richness of living, and sharply increasing aural dividends for years to come,” he said.

11. Alkaline Trio – Heart & Skull

Alkaline Trio left Epic and created their own label Heart & Skull, which they used for the release of This Addiction in 2010.

“Taking control of our own label situation was something we always wanted to do but never thought was possible,” says Skiba. “But now thanks to Brett Gurewitz and the fine folks at Epitaph, it is. All three of us in Alkaline Trio have always had the utmost respect for the music and the work ethic of the Epitaph, Anti- and Hellcat family and now we’re honored to be working together under one big happy roof. Heart & Skull/Epitaph is truly a dream come true for us.” via Epitaph.

12. Oasis – Big Brother Recordings

Oasis created Big Brother Recordings, not because the Gallaghers left their label but really, their label left them. In 1999 Alan McGee, co-founder of Creation Records, announced he was finished and so Oasis created their own label. When the band split up in 2009 and former members of the band created Beady Eye they created Beady Eye Records as well, to continue to independently release their material.

13. White Stripes – Third Man Records

White Stripes released music on V2 Records and Warner Bros., but in 2001 Jack White developed his own label, Third Man Records. His label reissued three White Stripes albums and is now home to his other bands, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, as well as other artists including Wanda Jackson, Conan O’Brien and Laura Marling.

“Mr. White describes the stand he took over ownership as “an insurance policy to not get screwed over by big labels.’” via The Wall Street Journal

14. Nine Inch Nails – The Null Corporation

Trent Reznor and Rob Sheridan of Nine Inch Nails created The Null Corporation after the band left Interscope Records. The label has also released an EP for How to Destroy Angels and the Oscar-winning score for “The Social Network”. Reznor posted a message on the band’s website after NIN decided to leave Interscope.

“I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate. Look for some announcements in the near future regarding 2008. Exciting times, indeed.”

Honorable Mention: Radiohead

Radiohead receives an honorable mention for ditching the idea of record labels together and selling music directly from its website. The band is using XL Recordings to sell its deluxe package for The King of Limbs, though.

“What we wanted was some control over our [master recordings] and how it was used in the future by them. That seemed reasonable to us, and we cared about it a great deal,” he continued. “Mr. Hands was not interested. So, neither were we.”Thom Yorke