First of all, let me preface this by saying it is genuinely hard to pinpoint the world’s first ever electronic music label. There is possibly one database that exists and that is where a lot of my initial information came from, but it’s not the easiest database to navigate and I’m still unsure whether or not the database counts record labels that are now defunct. On top of that, without going through Wikipedia’s full list of hundreds of electronic music labels and checking the founding date of each one it’s hard to search for specific starting dates, especially with the wide genre of electronic/dance music.
With all that in mind, let’s dive into what I believe is the first legitimate electronic music label of all time. Once again, feel free to tell me I’m wrong, I am a LOT younger than this label and was by no means close to alive when the labels I’ll talk about first came into existence.
The year was 1978, Kraftwerk’s Autobahn had been out for a while now and having pioneered the modern electronic music movement it was a relatively safe assumption that they’d also inspire an electronic specific label. Looking back it’s interesting to see that the initial movement they inspired seemed to be that of post-punk, think Joy Division, New Order and the likes.
As such, two labels that fronted this music specifically are what I’m coining as the first electronic music labels. Mute Records and Factory Records both ‘started’ in 1978 signing the likes of Joy Division and New Order and eventually Kraftwerk, Moby and heaps more.
One of the labels however, can cite their starting as early as January of that year and that would be Factory Records. A British crew started from offshoots of Rabid Records a cheeky punk rock outfit, their first major album release was Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (1979).
From here they’d move on to release a bunch of others over two or so decades, including an album by New Order and a little less on the electronic vein, a release by The Sex Pistols. They would continue supporting both New Order and Joy Division until their eventual demise in 1992.
The label, now defunct paved the way for artists that would become renowned as some of the most iconic electronic music artists in the world. Check out their full discography here and educate yourself on some classic electronic tracks.