D.C. doesn’t make too many waves in mainstream music, but who cares? We’re not lacking for great local music—nor the DIY record labels that support it.
Any rockist outside of town probably associates D.C. with the fabled Dischord label, and hip-hop heads undoubtedly know about Wale’s The Board Administration imprint and Raheem DeVaughn’s 368 Music Group. But look a little closer and you’ll find the District is teeming with tiny labels. So many, in fact, we couldn’t fit them all on this page. [Ed. note: This article originally appeared in print. See the dead-tree version below.] So here are some—only some!—of the best local labels to keep your eyeball on.
The deal: Steve and Joyce Feigenbaum’s nearly 30-year-old Silver Spring-based label favors experimental music across genres (and countries).
Notable releases: Lo-fi pioneer R. Stevie Moore inaugurated the label in 1984 with his fourth LP, What’s the Point; more recently, Cuneiform put out local cello and guitar duo Janel and Anthony’s Where Is Home.
The deal: Mike Petillo and Andrew Field-Pickering’s aquatic funk and house imprint
Notable releases: D.C. duo Protect-U’s 2011 12-inch World Music, which prompted one of the world’s best-known electronic-music writers, Philip Sherburne, to ask, “Why isn’t Washington, D.C.’s Future Times label a bigger deal?”
The deal: Fan Death Records co-owner Sean Gray started Accidental Guest as an outlet for fringier material.
Notable releases: So far, it’s only released two cassettes; Gray plans to put out a new tape from his solo project No Paris in February.
The deal: Ian Thompson’s Arlington-based label for blistering hardcore and “anything loud”
Notable releases: Plunk down some cash for The Tender Thrill’s self-titled debut LP and the recent full-length from garage-rock tunesmiths Passing Phases. Upcoming records from Dealbreaker, LTW, Human Shield, and Fulgora—a new band with Pig Destroyer drummer Adam Jarvis—also sound promising.
Peoples Potential Unlimited
The deal: Andrew Morgan’s home for ’80s funk rarities
Notable releases: A 2012 compilation of hybridized D.C. go-go, funk, and boogie from 1983-85, and the “Lady Disco” 45, a reissue of the 1980 single by Hyattsville soul singer George Smallwood (co-released with DC Soul Recordings).
Mello Music Group
The deal: OK, it’s not a D.C. label—it’s based in Arizona. But Mello releases so much D.C.-based indie hip-hop, it has an honorary home here.
Notable releases: Diamond District’s 2009 In the Ruff, the debut album from DMV-reared artists yU, Oddissee, and X.O., was one of D.C.’s best hip-hop records.
The deal: Travis Jackson’s snotty garage label has also become a reliable source of vintage punk-rock reissues.
Notable releases: Seven-inches from noisy D.C. bands The Shirks, The Cheniers, The Points, and Maybe Baby; reissues from Syracuse punks The Penetrators. This year, look forward to Windian’s compilation Capitol Rock n Roll, Vol 1: 1956–1966.
The deal: University of Maryland student Jack Stanbury’s tiny, cassette-only indie label based in College Park, Md.
Notable releases: The earnest debut EP from Sunset Theme contains a true bedroom-pop gem, “Front Seat.”
The deal: The six-year-old label isn’t super prolific—since 2007, it’s put out four titles—but we admire its dedication to all local, sensitive indie rock. [Ed. note: Due to a reporting error, the label’s name is misspelled in the print edition. Apologies, Etxe!]
Notable releases: Silo Halo’s Night and the City; Girl Loves Distortion’s You Better Run, Your Highness.
The print version of this article: