Note that while some Matador releases are exclusive to North America or Europe, they use one numbering system for all releases, so it is not necessary to enter them under separate labels.
The Matador label began in 1989 when Chris Lombardi dragged the Austrian duo H.P. Zinker into Wharton Tiers’ Fun City studio to record OLE-001, ...and there was light. Run out of Chris’ New York apartment, Lombardi added artists such as the Dustdevils, Railroad Jerk and Superchunk to the initial roster. Joined by longtime Homestead Records manager Gerard Cosloy in 1990, Matador experienced its first taste of crazed media attention & big sales with the North American release of Teenage Fanclub’s debut long-player, A Catholic Education. Over the years, the label has moved from shoebox sized offices to larger and larger complexes, the staff has grown from 2 to 24, and the roster has simply exploded. As well as functioning as the North American home to Pavement, Liz Phair and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Matador has helped artists such as Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, Cornelius, Solex, Pizzicato Five, Helium and the Arsonists reach audiences worldwide.
Matador has also served as the North American licensee for a number of exceptional international acts, including Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Red Snapper, Arab Strap and others. Since 1996, Matador has maintained separate offices and staff in London. In addition to supervising the promotion, sales and marketing of Matador titles on the continent, Matador Europe has also licensed recordings from some of North America’s most acclaimed new artists, M. Ward, Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse, and Superchunk to name a few.
While Matador has often been characterized (not by the label itself) as an underground or "indie" rock label, over the years, the label’s musical direction has grown, to the point where many hip hop, electronic and experimental acts play as prominent a role in the label’s sound & future as any number of singer/songwriters and rock bands. Sometimes all of the above converge.
During the 1990s, Matador entered into partnerships with Atlantic and Capitol Records. In 1999, Lombardi & Cosloy purchased back Capitol's 49% share of the label, and in 2002, Beggars Group Ltd. purchased 50% of the legal entities behind the Matador label / imprint Matador Records Inc and Matador Records Ltd. and took over Matador's worldwide marketing.