Many know the Windy City for its rich musical history, like as the birthplace of house music, an epicenter of a great blues era, or as one of today’s best rap and R&B scenes. Time has been kind to Chicago music and that reputation has also ensured it has no shortage of independent record labels. In fact, Chicago record labels have a worldwide reputation as incubators of great talent across genres.
Let’s cut to the chase and meet a few you might not know.
Chicago record labels you should know
Not Normal Tapes
Not Normal Tapes was founded by Ralph Rivera to fill a void in releases for punk rock. This Chicago record label excels in progressive, underground hardcore releases and is responsible for one of the hottest new music festivals on the block, Infestational. Releases from Not Normal Tapes include G.L.O.S.S., Big Crux, The Bug, and more.
Trax Records is one of the first and still foremost electronic house record labels in Chicago and in the wider electronic genre in general. They have been culturally identified as the “Motown” of house music. ID Magazine has said “Without Trax, words like ‘jack’, ‘acid’, and ‘house’ would never have dropped into our cultural lexicon.”
Closed Sessions was founded in 2009 by Alex Fruchter and Mike Kolar, and has been essential in empowering Chicago’s hip-hop community. Forbes declared Closed Sessions the “independent record label restoring Chicago hip-hop” that has had “similar [influence] as Tommy Boy Records during hip-hop’s Golden Age.” Those are some big shoes to fill. Artists and notable alums signed include Wyclef Jean, Vic Mensa, Action Bronson, Curren$y, and more.
Maximum Pelt is one of the premier Chicago record labels giving up-and-coming bands a voice in the city’s rock scene. The label was founded in the early 2000s, and releases range from sludge pop to scuzz punk. Artists signed included Flesh Panthers, Dan Rico, The Chives, and more.
Do you have a favorite among the Chicago record labels we didn’t include? Let us know on Twitter.