There are a few cultural movements in North Texas that could be considered burgeoning scenes. The craft beer uprising has rightfully grabbed headlines, while the Design District and Bishop Arts District have recently given the Dallas culinary world new faces and flavors.
Certain new and established record labels in North Texas deserve attention for the same reasons as the aforementioned culturally enriched pastimes. The people running these five local labels have met commercial demand and, in some cases, created their own.
Successful labels appeal to a customer base that understands locally produced records can meet a level of quality that has been lost by major labels residing on either coast.
Kirtland comes closest to major-label status in the area, thanks to a trusty roster of nationally known names, such as Bob Schneider and the Toadies.
These local record labels have absolutely enhanced the Dallas-Fort Worth music scene:
Dallas Distortion Music
Notable act: Blackstone Rangers
The newest of the labels on this list (established in early 2011), Dallas Distortion Music employs a range of functions in order to promote the music that, in Matthew Vickers' and Evan Henry’s estimation, needs to be heard by more people, more often.
Releasing cassette tapes instead of CDs, while adding blogging and concert promotion, makes for a musical pursuit of nirvana more than it does a winning business model. The multifunctional nature of DDM, which focuses primarily on indie, punk and hardcore offerings, is something that many DIY-style labels use as a way to create an identity within the marketplace so local music fans can connect with them closely.
Notable acts: Sarah Jaffe, The Toadies, Bob Schneider
This is the label that comes closest to major-label status in the area, thanks to a trusty roster of nationally known names. Although the Toadies comeback record of 2012 (the solid Play.Rock.Music.) might not have set the rock world on fire, Sarah Jaffe’s follow-up to her phenomenal debut full-length, The Body Wins, certainly seems to be a victory.
Irresistible Dallas pop-duo Smile Smile also calls Kirtland home, making this a label that wants to create big, national names from locally beloved acts. 2013 looks to be promising, as new signees Alpha Rev from Austin will bring another album of their infectious, ambient rock.
Notable acts: Calhoun, The O’s, Here Holy Spain
If Gutterth Productions has given people a taste of the Denton scene, then the long-standing Idol Records, run by Erv Karwelis, acts as a practical Dallas Rock Hall of Fame. This is thanks to many of the Deep Ellum-grown greats on the label’s current and past rosters. (Idol has some choice gems from the early days of Centro-matic and the Old 97’s.)
Long-standing Idol Records acts as a practical Dallas Rock Hall of Fame, thanks to many of the Deep Ellum-grown greats on the label’s current and past rosters.
2011 was a fast and fantastic year for Idol. Sparkling debuts from Darstar and Gaston Light and stellar records from established stars such as Calhoun and The O’s made last year as great for local music lovers as it was for the label itself.
Although 2012 has been relatively quiet, 2013 promises to make up for lost time with the release of albums by new acts comprising beloved Dallas vets (These Machines Are Winning, featuring members of [Daryl] and Black Tie Dynasty) and possible comeback efforts by other beloved local players.
Notable acts: Pinkish Black
Of the five record labels on this list, this one stretches sonic and geographical boundaries the most. In fact, the Rich Loren-led label offers up a wider array of products than the others as well.
Along with vinyl and a cassette tape series, a couple of books are also available from the label's website, including the highly regarded Transcendental Black Metal, written by Liturgy frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix.
Focusing on experimental metal and bands that know how to make noise that isn’t noisy, Handmade Birds is the label that caters best to those purists who need their music available in a physical form, rather than in digital bits and pieces.
Notable acts: Shiny Around the Edges, New Science Projects, Bad Design
Founded by Michael Briggs and Brent Fishman, Gutterth has basically been the curator of the hard-to-define Denton sound since 2006. Using music-packed podcasts and compilations that serve as a Best-of-North Texas soundtrack, Gutterth has been a dependable friend of the Dallas area indie-music fan.
How friendly? Their compilations have been free, and anyone can go to the site and stream any of their albums without purchasing.