In an industry dominated by men, several women and LGBTQIA+-owned record labels have started taking over the music scene. Whether they emerged from the riot grrrl movement of the ’90s or were recently founded, their existence is nothing short of important in heightening representation in music. They are challenging the status quo and, in doing so, dismantling the boys’ club of indie, punk, emo, pop and countless other alternative music genres.
When women and LGBTQIA+-owned record labels emerge, they open up opportunities and spaces that may or may not have been initially welcoming to them. Furthermore, they disrupt any gatekeeping that can occur in genres dominated by men. It says to fellow women and LGBTQIA+ individuals that there is a space for them—one that welcomes them as well as uplifts their creativity and talents. This list brings together 11 well-known, indie and new record labels from women and LGBTQIA+ people to showcase their incredible efforts in creating an environment that resists patriarchal norms and empowers communities.
Bikini Kill Records
Bikini Kill are famously known for igniting the fire of the riot grrrl movement in Olympia, Washington. However, the band went on to have a record label under the same name, Bikini Kill Records. Founded in 2012, the label reissues their most iconic records on vinyl and offers merch for their fans. While their current roster only includes themselves, Bikini Kill are known for supporting fellow feminist artists, musicians and bands, meaning they could expand at any moment.
Club Queen Records
Club Queen Records was founded in 2018 to support women of color in the music industry. More specifically, they utilize their label to uplift them in hip-hop, R&B, pop and dance genres. It was formed by CEO TT The Artist and has expanded over the past several years to include groups such as Criibaby and Chris Jane. While they are known as a record label, Club Queen Records also offers assistance in social media marketing, artist development, live events and several other essential services for artists.
Righteous Babe Records
In 1990, folk artist Ani DiFranco founded Righteous Babe Records as a means to distribute her own music without feeling beheld by a major label. The freedom of being able to create for oneself is at the core of the label’s ethos, and it shines through in the musicians they distribute. With Resistance Revival Chorus, Gracie And Rachel, Pieta Brown and more, Righteous Babe Records boasts a lineup of artists who are uniquely themselves.
SPINSTER markets themselves as a radical feminist label that encourages diversity and uniqueness among artists. Since 2018, they’ve been recognized for their musical offerings that range from folkloric to traditional all the way to outright experimental. SPINSTER offers a space for every musician whose aims aren’t set on appeasing mainstream major labels but to satisfy their creativity with the label’s unwavering support.
Saddest Factory Records
With the success of her 2020 record, Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers went on to start a record label named Saddest Factory Records, which officially launched in October 2020. On Feb. 12, the label released their first official LP by Claud titled Super Monster. Now that they are well on their way to becoming a part of the mainstream zeitgeist of alternative music, there’s no telling where Bridgers will take her label, but it will surely be to the top.
This Could Go Boom!
This Could Go Boom! supports underpromoted artists. In turn, they open doors to those that the mainstream major labels may ignore. The label offers a lineup of artists who are open to embrace their individual creativity with musical narratives and transformative talents. This Could Go Boom! is appropriately named, as their mission is to prompt a cultural shift, in and outside of the music industry. In other words, their collective could make it all explode.
Cafe Rooster Records
Cafe Rooster Records was co-founded by Sally Jaye, a folk singer. It supports a diverse collective of country and folk artists. The label also embraces its country roots with the slogan “farm to turntable.” With groups such as LadyCouch and Ladies Gun Club, Cafe Rooster Records is providing a space for women in country music to showcase their extraordinary talents.
Play Me Records
DJ and producer Reid Speed started Play Me Records to support new and emerging artists. It has been a great success for Speed, as the label’s dubstep artists have reached incredible heights in their careers. With over a dozen musicians on their lineup, it’s no surprise that Play Me Records continues to gain fans.
Arrowhawk Records is a proudly woman-operated and -owned label whose goal is to support artists finding a larger audience. Founder Alyssa DeHayes started Arrowhawk Records in 2013 with a mission to showcase the talents of musicians who were left on the fringes. While they support their own roster, they also offer assistance to anyone who’s interested in starting their own label as well as providing insight into self-release strategies.
A Diamond Heart Production
Owner and producer Vanessa Silberman proudly runs A Diamond Heart Production, with over 20 years of industry experience under her belt. With a keen eye for detail and a full breadth of knowledge on navigating the music industry, she helps artists grow their careers. This can range from artist development, recording and music publishing. Silberman runs A Diamond Heart Production with the intent of offering a space for any and all artists to have the opportunity to be a part of a music-driven community.
Get Better Records
Independent label Get Better Records is owned and operated by trans and queer artists. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they unapologetically exclaim that there’s no space for racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia or hate in the spaces that they make up for the LGBTQIA+ community, by the LGBTQIA+ community. Their current roster includes artists such as Suzie True, Evan Greer and Lande Hekt, spanning the United States and beyond. As Get Better Records grows, as does the representation of LGBTQIA+ people in the music industry who aren’t often recognized by the mainstream.