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Record Label

Best Record Labels in Chicago

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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Record Labels in Chicago

The city of Chicago has long been a hotbed of musical talent, with a deep and vibrant music scene that has spawned some of the most beloved and influential record labels in the world. From the early days of Chess Records and Wax Trax! to the more recent success of labels like Drag City and the Numero Group, Chicago’s music scene has always been a major force in the industry. 

From classic jazz, blues, and soul to indie rock and hip-hop, these labels have helped shape Chicago’s musical landscape and continue to make their mark on the music world today. Take a look at some of the city’s best record labels and explore the music they have produced over the years. 

Top 10 Record Labels in Chicago

Trax Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Trax Records is an iconic record label based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1983 by Larry Sherman & Screamin’ Rachael Cain (owned by Vince Lawrence), the label was instrumental in the development of house music and has released a wide variety of genres over the years, including hip-hop, techno, industrial, and more. 

The label is credited with helping to popularize house music in the United States and has featured many of the genre’s most influential artists, such as Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, and Lil Louis. The label has also released music from non-house artists such as R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg, and Moby. Trax Records is still active today and continues to be an important part of the music industry.

Bloodshot Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Bloodshot Records is an independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1993 by Eric Babcock, Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller, the label specializes in Americana, punk, country, and alt-country music. The label has released albums by an impressive roster of artists including Ryan Adams, Lucero, The Mekons, and The Old 97’s. 

Bloodshot Records has become a major player in the independent music scene, and is known for its commitment to artist development and promotion. The label’s mission is to provide a platform for independent music, and to support and nurture the unique voices of its artists. Bloodshot Records continues to be a leader in the independent music industry, and its artists are celebrated for their creativity and originality.

Delmark Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Delmark Records is a record label based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1953 by Bob Koester, it is one of the oldest independent record labels in the United States. The label has released a wide variety of music, including blues, jazz, gospel, and rock.

 It is known for releasing classic blues and jazz recordings, as well as new and emerging artists. Delmark Records has released over 500 albums, from many legendary artists such as Frank Anderson, Roy Campbell, Zora Young, Michael Coleman, Ken Saydak and many more. It has won numerous awards, the label is dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of Chicago and the Midwest, and has become an important part of the city’s musical history.

Large Music

Record Labels in Chicago

Jeff Craven, a resident of Windy City, was concerned that house music, which originated in his hometown, was being pushed aside. He created the label Large Music in 1993 to keep it alive and relevant in the international eye. This attention had previously been focused on labels such as Trax and DJ International, but had since shifted to New York-based labels such as Strictly Rhythm, Nervous and 8-Ball.

In the 90s, Roy Davis Jr’s “Gabriel” became one of the most iconic anthems of the burgeoning UK garage scene. During this era, their roster was comprised of renowned artists such as DJ Sneak, Mateo & Matos and Dennis Ferrer who were just starting out.

For over 29 years, Large Music has released 300 singles and 50 albums, as well as having their tracks licensed to 400 compilations. This means they have been delivering fresh house music on a weekly basis for longer than many of the people dancing to it in clubs today have been alive!

Sooper Records

Record Labels in Chicago

In 2016, NNAMDÏ, Sen Morimoto and Glenn Curran established Sooper, a record label based in Chicago. This platform provides a space for like-minded individuals to share their music with the world. Artists such as Titus, Alicia Walter, Jodi, Kaina, Blacker Face and more  are currently signed to the label.

Sooper Records is a great example of an independent label that is dedicated to fostering a vibrant music scene in Chicago. The label’s commitment to creating a space for artists to express themselves and their art is admirable, and its dedication to promoting local music is commendable. 

They are particularly intrigued by the inventive muses that arise at the intermingling of genres, where a complex and genuine representation of human emotion is expressed through music.

Novelist Music Group

Record Labels in Chicago

Novelist Music Group is an independent record label founded by producer and songwriter, David Biga and co-founder D-Mac. The label was created in 2015  as a way to showcase emerging artists from the city and provide them with the necessary resources to become successful.

Novelist Music Group (NMG) works to support, guide, and promote artists who demonstrate a passion for expressing their stories through creative means. These chosen artists represent the art of storytelling and are given the opportunity to entertain both live audiences and digital viewers in a variety of ways by combining film, music, and storytelling.

Novelist Music Group is committed to providing a platform for emerging artists in the city and helping them reach their full potential. The label continues to be an integral part of the Chicago music scene and is sure to continue to be a leader in the independent music world.

Cedille Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Cedille Records is an independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois that specializes in classical music recordings. Founded in 1989 by James Ginsburg, Cedille Records has become one of the most respected labels for classical music in the United States. The label has released over 150 albums featuring both up-and-coming and established classical musicians from around the world.

The label has worked with many of the city’s most renowned classical artists, including violinist Rachel Barton Pine, pianist Shai Wosner, and composer Augusta Read Thomas. Cedille Records is also committed to educating the public about classical music and its history. To this end, the label produces albums with extensive liner notes and educational materials to help listeners gain a greater understanding of the music.

Alligator Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Alligator Records is one of the most iconic and influential record labels in the history of Chicago music. Founded in 1971 by Bruce Iglauer, Alligator Records has become the premier destination for blues, jazz, soul, and roots music in the Windy City.

Alligator Records is also renowned for its commitment to preserving the legacy of Chicago’s blues and jazz music. The label has released over 250 albums since its founding, many of which are now considered classic recordings. In addition, Alligator Records has produced several award-winning documentaries about the history of blues and jazz in Chicago, including the Grammy-nominated film “The Road to Memphis.”

At its inception, Alligator Records was an independent label, releasing albums by some of the most influential blues and jazz musicians in Chicago. These artists included Koko Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, Eddie Shaw, and Albert Collins, among others. In the 1980s, the label expanded its roster to include artists from a variety of genres, including rock, folk, and country. Alligator Records is now home to some of the most celebrated blues, jazz, and roots musicians in the world.

Drag City

Record Labels in Chicago

Drag City is a Chicago-based independent record label that has been releasing music since 1990. Founded by Dan Koretzky and Dan Osborn, the label has become a major player in the independent music scene, releasing albums from a wide range of artists including Joanna Newsom, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Silver Jews.

The label’s headquarters is located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, where they run their own in-house record store. The store offers a wide selection of releases from Drag City and other independent labels and a range of music-related merchandise.

Drag City is also home to the Drag City Records website, which features a comprehensive list of their releases, a blog, and a podcast. The website also serves as a platform for the label’s artists to share music and promote tours.

Thrill Jockey Records

Record Labels in Chicago

Thrill Jockey Records is an independent record label based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1993 by Bettina Richards and Bruce Adams, the label has released music from a wide range of artists, including Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Trans Am, and more.

Thrill Jockey Records is known for its diverse range of genres, from experimental rock and jazz to electronica, post-rock, and more. The label has released over 200 albums since its inception, and has helped to establish many of its artists as iconic figures in the music world.

Thrill Jockey has also become known for its innovative marketing strategies, such as its “Thrill Jockey Records Presents” series, which has featured live performances from some of the label’s most popular acts. The label also hosts regular events, such as its “Thrill Jockey Records Day” celebration in Chicago, which brings together fans and artists in a unique setting.

Closing Thoughts 

Chicago is home to some of the best record labels in the world. From the classic Motown sound to the innovative styles of rap and hip-hop, Chicago has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for the perfect beat or a unique sound, Chicago’s record labels have something for you. So if you’re looking to explore the music scene in Chicago, be sure to check out some of the great record labels that the city has to offer.


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