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Record Label

10 Best Detroit Record Labels Of All Time

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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Detroit Record Labels

Detroit has a rich music scene that has contributed significantly to American music history, and with that, a slew of infamous Detroit record labels. From Motown to techno, the city has produced some of the most influential musicians and genres of the 20th century.

In this article, we will look at the diverse range of musical styles and talent to come from Detroit, as well as a look at the 10 best Detroit record labels that supported the scene and its artists.

Detroit Record Labels And the Music That Made Them

The Detroit music scene has a rich and diverse history that spans several decades. It has been home to many influential musicians and genres, from Motown to techno.

Motown, also known as Hitsville USA, was founded in Detroit in 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr. The label produced some of the most iconic soul and R&B hits of the 1960s and 70s, including songs by The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. The Motown sound was characterized by its catchy melodies, tight harmonies, and upbeat rhythms, and it had a profound influence on pop music worldwide.

In the 1980s, Detroit became the birthplace of techno music. Techno emerged from the city’s underground club scene and was pioneered by DJs like Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May. The genre was characterized by its use of electronic instruments and futuristic soundscapes, and it quickly gained popularity in Europe and beyond. 

Today, Detroit is still considered one of the global centers of techno music, and the city hosts an annual electronic music festival, Movement, which attracts thousands of fans from around the world.

Detroit’s music scene has also been shaped by its jazz and blues traditions and the city has produced many notable jazz musicians, including trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Geri Allen, and saxophonist Pepper Adams. Blues legends like John Lee Hooker and Big Maceo also got their start in Detroit’s music clubs.

Ten Best Detroit Record Labels Of All Time

Here is our pick of the 10 best Detroit record labels of all time.

Motown Records

Detroit Record Labels Motown Records

Motown Records, also known as Hitsville U.S.A., was a record label that was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr. The label played a major role in shaping the sound of popular music during the 1960s and 1970s, and it became one of the most successful and influential record labels in history.

The label was unique in that it was one of the first record labels to be owned and operated by an African American. Berry Gordy Jr. had a vision of creating a record label that would produce music that could appeal to both black and white audiences. He wanted to create a sound that was distinctly American and that would be loved by people all over the world.

The sound of Motown Records was characterized by its catchy melodies, tight harmonies, and upbeat rhythms. The label produced a wide range of music, from soul and R&B to pop and rock. Some of the most famous artists to come out of Motown Records include The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Jackson 5.

The Power Of The Most Famous Detriot Record Labels

Motown Records was not just a label, it was a family. The artists were not just employees, they were part of a community that supported and encouraged each other. The label had a unique approach to producing music, with a team of writers, producers, and musicians who worked together to create the distinctive Motown sound.

Motown Records had a major impact on American culture and music. The label helped to break down racial barriers in the music industry and paved the way for other African American artists to achieve success. The Motown sound became a symbol of hope and optimism during a time of great social upheaval in America.

Today, Motown Records remains a beloved and iconic record label. Its music continues to inspire and influence new generations of artists. The label’s legacy is a testament to the power of music to bring people together and to create positive change in the world.

Westbound Records

Detroit Record Labels Westbound Records

Westbound Records was a Detroit-based record label that was founded in 1969 by Armen Boladian and his brother, Chahram. The label quickly gained a reputation for releasing some of the most innovative and influential funk and soul music of the era.

One of Westbound’s earliest and most successful signings was the group Funkadelic, led by the legendary musician George Clinton. Funkadelic’s debut album, “Funkadelic,” was released on Westbound in 1970 and featured a groundbreaking blend of funk, rock, and psychedelic sounds. The album was a critical and commercial success and helped establish Westbound as a major player in the music industry.

Westbound also released music by other notable artists, including Ohio Players, Denise LaSalle, and the Detroit Emeralds. The label’s roster of talent helped define the sound of funk and soul music in the 1970s, and Westbound’s influence can still be heard in contemporary music today.

Despite its success, Westbound Records faced financial difficulties in the late 1970s and was eventually sold to MCA Records in 1979. However, the label’s legacy lives on, and its contributions to the world of music continue to be celebrated by fans and historians alike.

Atlantic Records 

Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records is a renowned American record label that has played a significant role in shaping the music industry. The label has a rich history in Detroit, Michigan, where it has signed numerous talented artists and produced some of the most iconic music of the 20th century.

Founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, Atlantic Records quickly gained popularity by signing jazz and R&B artists such as Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, and the Drifters. In the 1960s, the label expanded its roster to include rock and roll acts like Led Zeppelin and Cream.

In Detroit, Atlantic Records made a name for itself by signing some of the city’s most talented musicians. One of the label’s earliest successes in Detroit was with the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin. In 1967, Franklin signed with Atlantic Records and released her hit single “Respect,” which became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Atlantic Records also signed other notable Detroit artists such as Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, and Otis Redding. These artists helped define the “Motown sound,” which combined soul, R&B, and pop music. Atlantic Records’ influence in the city’s music scene continued into the 1970s and 1980s with the signing of acts like Kid Rock, Eminem, and Bob Seger.

Today, Atlantic Records continues to be a major player in the music industry, with a diverse roster of artists spanning multiple genres. The label has adapted to the changing landscape of the music industry by embracing digital platforms and social media to connect with fans.

In conclusion, Atlantic Records has played a significant role in shaping the music industry in Detroit and beyond. The label’s commitment to signing talented artists and producing iconic music has made it a household name for music lovers around the world.

Gordy Records 

Gordy Records

Gordy Records was a record label founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1962 by Berry Gordy Jr. The label was a subsidiary of Motown Records, which Gordy also founded, and was named after Gordy himself.

One of the label’s biggest hits was Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was released in 1968. The song topped the charts and became one of the most popular songs of the decade. Other notable hits from Gordy Records include The Temptations’ “My Girl” and The Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love.”

Gordy Records was also known for its close-knit family atmosphere. Many of the label’s artists were discovered by Gordy himself and were mentored by him and other Motown executives. This approach helped to create a unique sound and style that became synonymous with Motown and Gordy Records.

Despite its success, Gordy Records eventually merged with Motown Records in the late 1970s. However, the legacy of Gordy Records lives on through the music it produced and the impact it had on the music industry. Today, the label is remembered as one of the most influential and groundbreaking record labels of all time.

Submerge Recordings

Submerge Recordings

Submerge Recordings is a Detroit-based record label that has been at the forefront of techno music since its inception in the early 1990s. Founded by Mike Banks, Robert Hood, and Jeff Mills, Submerge Recordings has played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of techno music in Detroit and beyond.

The label has released music by some of the most influential techno artists of all time, including Underground Resistance, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May. In addition to releasing music, Submerge Recordings also operates a record store in Detroit that specializes in techno and other electronic music genres.

Submerge Recordings has been instrumental in promoting the Detroit techno sound around the world. The label has organized events and tours in Europe, Asia, and South America, bringing the sound of Detroit techno to new audiences and helping to establish the city as a hub for electronic music.

Despite its success, Submerge Recordings has remained true to its roots and continues to support emerging artists and underground techno scenes. The label has also been involved in community outreach programs, providing music education and resources to youth in Detroit.

Third Man Records

Third Man Records

Third Man Records is a music label and store located in Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 2001 by Jack White, the label has become a hub for musicians and music lovers alike.

The store itself is a unique experience, with a bright yellow exterior and an interior that is both retro and modern. It features a recording booth where visitors can record their own vinyl records, as well as a stage for live performances.

Third Man Records has released music from a variety of artists, including Jack White himself, as well as The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and Karen Elson. The label has also released reissues of classic albums, such as The Stooges’ self-titled debut and The MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams.”

In addition to its music offerings, Third Man Records also sells a variety of merchandise, including t-shirts, posters, and books. The store has become a destination for music fans from around the world and has helped to revitalize Detroit’s music scene.

Third Man Records is a unique and exciting addition to Detroit’s cultural landscape. Its commitment to preserving and promoting music is admirable, and its impact on the city cannot be overstated.

KDJ Records

KDJ Records

KDJ Records is a Detroit-based record label founded by legendary DJ and producer Kenny Dixon Jr., better known as Moodymann. The label has been a vital part of Detroit’s electronic music scene since its inception in the mid-1990s.

Moodymann’s vision for KDJ Records was to create a platform for underground artists in Detroit to showcase their talents and share their music with the world. The label’s early releases were a mix of house, techno, and soulful grooves, with Moodymann’s own productions at the forefront.

Over the years, KDJ Records has released music from a diverse range of artists, including Theo Parrish, Norm Talley, and Rick Wilhite. The label’s output has been consistently high-quality, with a focus on raw, unfiltered music that captures the spirit of Detroit’s underground scene.

One of the defining features of KDJ Records is Moodymann’s unique approach to marketing and distribution. The label has always been a strictly vinyl-only operation, with limited pressings of each release. This has helped to create a sense of exclusivity around KDJ Records, with collectors and fans eagerly snapping up each new release.

Despite its underground status, KDJ Records has had a significant impact on the wider music world. Moodymann’s productions have been sampled by artists across genres, and his influence can be heard in the work of contemporary artists like Jamie xx and Caribou.

In recent years, KDJ Records has continued to release music at a steady pace, with Moodymann’s own productions still at the forefront. The label remains a vital part of Detroit’s electronic music scene and a beacon for underground artists around the world.

Tamla Records 


Tamla Records was a Detroit-based record label also founded by Berry Gordy Jr. in 1959. It quickly became one of the most important and influential labels in the history of American popular music.

Gordy started Tamla Records with the goal of creating a label that could produce hits across a variety of genres, from R&B to pop to rock and roll. He assembled a talented team of songwriters, producers, and musicians, many of whom were from Detroit’s vibrant music scene.

One of Tamla’s early successes was “Shop Around” by The Miracles, which became the label’s first million-selling record. The label also released hits by artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder.

Tamla Records was known for its innovative sound, which blended elements of R&B, pop, and rock and roll. The label’s producers experimented with new recording techniques and instrumentation, such as the use of instruments like strings and horns in pop songs.

In addition to its musical contributions, Tamla Records was also an important cultural institution in Detroit. The label provided opportunities for African American musicians and executives at a time when the music industry was largely dominated by white men.

Tamla Records eventually became part of Motown Records, which Gordy founded in 1960. The special was developed by the same team of musicians and producers as Tamla, and became a cultural phenomenon, having a profound impact on American popular music.

Today, Tamla Records is remembered as a pioneering label that helped to shape the sound of American popular music. Its influence can still be heard in the music of contemporary artists who continue to draw on the label’s innovative sound and spirit of creativity.

Planet E Communications 

Planet E Communications

Planet E Communications is a record label that specializes in electronic dance music. The label was founded in 1991 by Carl Craig, a prominent figure in the techno music scene.

Planet E Communications has released a wide range of electronic music, from techno to house to experimental. The label has been home to some of the most influential artists in electronic music, including Moodymann, Kevin Saunderson, and Stacey Pullen.

One of the defining characteristics of Planet E Communications is its commitment to pushing the boundaries of electronic music. The label has always been at the forefront of innovation and has been instrumental in shaping the sound of techno and house music over the years.

In addition to its impressive roster of artists, Planet E Communications has also been known for its high-quality production values. The label has always placed a strong emphasis on sound quality and has consistently delivered some of the cleanest and most polished recordings in the electronic music industry.

Despite being based in Detroit, Planet E Communications has a global reach. The label has released music from artists all over the world and has built a strong following in Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Overall, Planet E Communications is a vital part of the electronic music landscape. The label’s commitment to innovation and quality has made it a favorite among fans and artists alike, and its influence can be felt throughout the industry.

Soul City Records

Detroit Record Labels Soul City

Soul City Records was a prominent record label in Detroit’s soul music scene during the 1960s and 1970s. Founded by producer and songwriter Don Davis in 1965, Soul City Records was based in a small building on Linwood Avenue in Detroit. Davis had previously worked for Motown and Stax Records in Memphis before striking out on his own.

Soul City Records released a string of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of which were written and produced by Davis himself. The label’s biggest success came with the group The Dramatics, whose hits included “In the Rain” and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.”

But Soul City Records was more than just a hit factory. Davis was known for his hands-on approach to producing, working closely with the musicians and singers he recorded. He also gave opportunities to young, up-and-coming artists, many of whom went on to have successful careers in the music industry.

One such artist was Isaac Hayes, who recorded his first solo album, “Presenting Isaac Hayes,” for Soul City Records in 1968. The album featured a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “Walk On By,” which became a hit and helped launch Hayes’ career.

Soul City Live – Detroit Record Labels

Soul City Records also had a reputation for its live shows. Davis organized regular concerts and showcases featuring the label’s artists, which helped build a strong sense of community among Detroit’s soul music scene.

Unfortunately, Soul City Records’ success was short-lived. Davis sold the label to Stax Records in 1971, and it was eventually absorbed into the larger company. Davis continued to work in the music industry, producing hits for artists like Johnnie Taylor and The Dells, but Soul City Records remained a footnote in Detroit’s rich musical history.

Today, the building that once housed Soul City Records is gone, replaced by a parking lot. But the label’s legacy lives on in the music it produced and the artists it nurtured. Soul City Records was a vital part of Detroit’s soul music scene, and its impact can still be felt today.

Detroit Record Labels And The Music Scene Today

In recent years, Detroit’s music scene has continued to evolve and diversify. The city has seen a resurgence of hip-hop and indie rock, and new venues and festivals have emerged to showcase local talent. The Detroit Music Awards, which honor the city’s best musicians and music industry professionals, have been held annually since 1992 and stand testament to the high level of artistic excellence from this musically infamous city.

Despite economic challenges and other setbacks, Detroit’s music scene remains a vital part of the city’s cultural identity. Its rich musical heritage continues to inspire new generations of artists and fans, and its influence can be heard in music genres around the world.

Today, Detroit’s music scene continues to thrive, with a new generation of artists making waves in hip-hop, electronic music, and beyond. The city’s rich musical heritage and innovative spirit ensure that it will remain a vital part of the global music community for years to come.


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