Some Important Tape Labels

By philbeard philbeard
updated 3 months ago

Compact cassettes came onto the market in 1963 but did not gain complete musical dominance over the bulkier reel-to-reel until the early eighties. Their offer of cheap recording and duplication chimed perfectly with the DIY (post-)punk revolution and it was in this period that tape labels began to appear regularly. The extended format and the aforementioned cheap recording and duplication (indeed, the offer of the very modern printing-on-demand option) opened the door to the release of huge amounts of experimental material that would otherwise have taken significant resources to get out to the audience. Somewhere between the demo and the record or CD label, the tape label has provided a first release or a one-off release of live material, outtakes etc for an amazing variety of bands who went onto or were taking a break from much bigger things. It should be said that a number of these labels have been known for a mixture of formats or have later moved on from cassettes, but are well-known for their regular or significant use of the cassette format. Most of them have followed in the footsteps of that punk era revolution in music distribution, but others come from a variety of music styles. I am not covering tape labels of music mainly from developing countries and from the world of dance music and hip-hop, which have gone down a similar route to supply fans with long-form recordings when no other format was wide-spread or adaptable enough.

In the early noughties the tape label faltered, as the emergence of CDR technology as a new, cheap option for home-made music releases with all the added features that CD brings either killed off the labels or persuaded them to jump format for all or a significant portion of their releases. In the last few years, there has been a resurgence in tape labels though, based seemingly on retro appeal, the new problems that CDR brought (copies that wouldn't play at all rather than just getting chewed up, etc), a dislike of faceless digital amongst some music fans & the fact that tape remains a good format. I thought it was thus time to gather a list of touchstone tape labels together.

Suggestions welcome. Thanks to Simon Hobs & Dsic for contributions so far. Remind me if I forgot you!

Before anyone asks, I haven't got any stuff on most of the early ones :-)

  1. Edition S Press

    John Cage, Henri Chopin, Ernst Jandl etc. Founded 1970.

  2. Reflection Press

    Early Throbbing Gristle etc outlet, more allied to art than music. 1974-ish?

  3. Inter-Dimensional Music

    New Age. From 1975?

  4. Industrial Records

    Throbbing Gristle's label. From 1976? See also TOPY.

  5. New Wilderness Audiographics

    I know nothing about these, but they look odd! From 1977?

  6. Sterile Records

    Founded 1979, run by Nocturnal Emissions. See also Earthly Delights.

  7. Snatch Tapes

    Founded 1979. Philip Sanderson's label.

  8. Come Organisation

    William Bennett's (later of Whitehouse's) label, from 1979. See also Susan Lawly.

  9. United Dairies

    Label closely linked to Nurse With Wound. Founded 1979.

  10. Conventional Tapes

    1979-84. Mark Perry, Severed Heads etc.

  11. Inner-X-Musick

    Sleep Chamber's label. Founded 1979. Still going.

  12. YHR Tapes

    MB, Cluster etc. Founded 1980.

  13. Lowest Music & Arts

    Merzbow's label. Founded 1980. See also ZSF Produkt.

  14. Ladd-Frith

    Blackhouse, AMK, Controlled Bleeding etc. Founded 1981.

  15. Graf Haufen Tapes

    German-tastic. Founded 1981.

  16. New Crimes Tapes

    1981-ish.

  17. Man At The Off Licence

    Cleaners From Venus outlet. 1981-ish.

  18. Unlikely Records

    1981-ish. Robert Cox's label.

  19. Bluurg Tapes

    Subhumans, Culture Shock etc. From 1981-ish.

  20. Broken Flag

    Gary Mundy from Ramleh's label. Founded 1982. Still going.

  21. 22

    Iphar

    Iphar

    Philip Best's label. Founded 1982.

  22. Cause For Concern

    Larry Peterson's label. Founded 1982.

  23. Nux Organization

    Null. Founded 1982.

  24. Le Syndicat

    1982-ish?