Dance music hasn’t always been so popular.

In fact, the sights and sounds we now associate with the genre were once considered taboo. They were the emblems of a counterculture forced to flourish not in the open, but within the safe confines of dark nightclubs and warehouse raves. So how did electronic music break through the glass ceiling?

Before songs from Above & Beyond, Roger Sanchez, Armin van Buuren and other legendary producers rocked the biggest festival stages in the world, they were naughty auditory ducklings on a quest to reach their full potential. Music always had the potential to fly, but without the help of the daring independent record labels willing to back it up, its wings would forever be cut off.

And after all these years, these indies have proven their endurance as a cornerstone of the electronic music scene.

EDM.com caught up with the executives of Anjunabeats, Defected Records and other influential dance music labels to step back in time and celebrate their very first release and the story it inspired.

Anjunabeats

Anjunabeats – Vol. 1

Release Date: June 1, 2000

“Before Above & Beyond, there was Anjunabeats. Jono and Paavo met at the University of London a little over 20 years ago and the first track they recorded together as ‘Anjunabeats’ was simply titled ‘Volume 1’.

Tony joined the band soon after and we named the trio Above & Beyond. Anjunabeats, a nod to Anjuna Beach in Goa, India, turned out to be a great name for a record company. “- Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki, Above & Beyond, co-founders

Defective records

Soulsearcher – I can’t get enough

Release Date: February 1, 1999

I joined Defected as A&R and Promo manager in 1999 and remember hearing the record for the first time and immediately felt like it was a success. He started out as an instrumental and was already popular in clubs. Then the song was added to help it get on the radio. Using Gary’s Gang’s “Let’s Lovedance Tonight” sample and the infectious song delivered by Thea Austin was a perfect match.

It reached 8th place on the UK singles charts, which was an incredible achievement for a new independent label like Defected. At the time, it was mostly about promoting the record in clubs and creating a buzz on specialty radio shows across the country before tapping into playlists like Kiss 100 and Radio 1 during the day. It’s a record that grew organically through the club scene and to be honest Soulsearcher wasn’t a well-known band, but we all knew it was Marc Pomeroy – half of Jazz-N-groove – who produced the record and he / they were well established and respected within the dance community. Back then, in the late ’90s, this kind of house record that relied heavily on disco was the main sound in most clubs across the country, so running through it in the bigger arena was much more doable at home. the time.

At the time, Marc Pomeroy and Jazz-N-Groove were at the top of their game and probably the best at producing records of this caliber. Thea Austin had previously busted on Snap’s hit record “Rhythm Is A Dancer”! in 1992 it was therefore an incredible combination. A real buzz back then, if your record was successful enough it was to hear it and see it play live on Top Of The Pops, so that was a real seal of approval when it was. arrived and a real sign that Defected was able to compete with the majors and having hit records. This opened the doors for many more cross-records to come, like Powerhouse, Kings Of Tomorrow, and Roger Sanchez. – Seamus Haji, A&R

Black hole recordings

DJ Tiësto – Tales from the Magik album

Release Date: December 1997

“Black Hole’s first release was a 12” with 4 exclusive tracks from Tiësto’s first mix compilation on our label. They were all produced by Tiësto and his friends under various aliases, it was a kind of melodic trance that was extremely rare at the time.

The release made 1,500 units in two months, which we considered to be a great success, as we launched the label in 1997 with virtually no money at all, and so we invested every penny we made into making new versions.

The Tiësto ‘Magik’ mix compilations became a genre-defining series and sold hundreds of thousands of CDs in the years to come, culminating in 2000 with Chapter Six: Live In Amsterdam. “- Arny Bink, founder

Armada Music

Moto – As The Rush Comes

Release date: September 7, 2003

“Motorcycle’s ‘As The Rush Comes’ (Gabriel & Dresden and JES) was the very first record we ever signed for Armada. We actually signed it for six months. before we launched the label, and Armin van Buuren himself remixed this anthem. It sold like crazy on vinyl and also became a huge hit on Dutch radio. “- Maykel Piron, CEO and co-founder

Monster cat

“Monstercat 001 – Launch week”

Release Date: July 12, 2011

“I met Ephixa after doing a YouTube search for ‘Canadian Hardstyle’, which led me to a song he uploaded in 2008 with the same name. After turning him on a DM, I learned we were going to the same college and became friends Mike Darlington, now CEO of Monstercat, was promoting shows in our area at the time and I was introduced to him by Ephixa. Together we got a group of people together. artists for this album, including Stephen Walking, then Ephixa’s roommate.

It’s been ten years since we released ‘Monstercat 001 – Launch Week’, which also marked the label’s official debut. We went head first as electronic music fans and members of the community, with no previous experience working in a label, or really in a music company for that matter. But we knew we had something special, so we kept going.

We launched the tracks one by one for a week on YouTube, then released the full album on Bandcamp and later on iTunes. We led with these artists because they presented the range of sounds that were at the heart of our multi-genre approach. This album marks the start of a decade-long journey for the majority of us who are still in the business, as well as for the artists who continue to release music on the label today. This includes Feint, Ephixa, Going Quantum, Varien (formerly Halo Nova) and Stephen Walking. “- Jon Winter, Head of A&R Operations

Foreign family collective

Troy Samuela & Monsoonsiren – Fiend

Release Date: March 10, 2015

“When we started hanging out at university, before we even started talking about the ODESZA project, we had the idea of ​​starting our own label to release the music from our own solo projects and some of the music. that our friends shared with us.

As we started touring and meeting other musicians, we kept hearing all these amazing songs that friends and friends of friends were making and wanted to get involved to help give these songs a platform. form. We saw an exciting new music scene start to develop and we wanted to help it flourish in every way possible.

When Monsoonsiren showed us the track he was working on with Troy Samuela, we were stunned and we knew straight away that this was the one we wanted to launch the label with. “- Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, ODESZA, co-founders

Circus records

Air Raid / Streets of Rage (Flux Pavilion Remix)

Release Date: September 14, 2009

“The first release on Circus was in the vinyl era, so a two-track classic. It was a true mix of collaboration between the label’s founders, Flux’s ‘Air Raid’ and Doctor P on the A-side, the side B was a Flux remix of ‘Streets of Rage’, a track Doctor P recorded under his original pseudonym.

Prior to being Doctor P, Shaun played drum & bass under the Picto name, primarily for Circus’ parent label, Maximum Boost. In a full circle, Shaun does amazing DnB again as Freaks and Geeks – a duet with fellow circus legend Phil de Roksonix. “- Andrew Neill, Managing Director

Perfecto Records

Izit – Stories

Release date: 1989

“It’s a song that I discovered while I was in Ibiza. I really like the spirit and energy of it. At the time, it was a modern dance record, so I signed it, released it and it worked really well. Welcome to the birth of Perfecto Records. ” – Paul Oakenfold, founder

bird-cock

Duskus – The first route

Release Date: August 5, 2014

“We will never forget the first track we ever released on bitbird, ‘The First Route’ by Duskus. Listening to it now, 7 years later, we still have goose bumps.

We released it at a time when this new experimental and colorful bass scene was emerging. Songs like this definitely shaped our scene and our community. Also, it’s so beautiful to see how an artist like Duskus has developed his sound over the years. Even though it has changed a lot, it hasn’t lost its vibe at all. “- San Holo, founder

Night bass

“This Is Night Bass Volume 1”

Release Date: June 30, 2015

“When I started the label I had been doing the Night Bass events for about a year and a half already. I wanted the first release to fully capture the musical style we were pushing at the time. You have to remember the sound of for at the time it was big room edm, dubstep and trap dominating clubs and festivals. This compilation was very different from that: avant-garde, fresh and new.

Breaking the American musical mold of the time was the best way for us to launch the label. The compilation had a strong impact, as did every subsequent release. Here we are seven years later and Night Bass is still working closely with all the artists on that first release. “- AC Slater, founder