I had occasion to listen to In the Charts: I.R.S. Records 1979-1994 in full the other day and got to thinking about boutique record labels. Labels started by one or two music industry guys who have a vision or a sensibility about music that they present to the public. Miles Copeland (brother of Policeman Stewart) brought together a lot of New Wave acts on I.R.S. with an emphasis on the commercial. They seemed to draw evenly between the L.A. and the English strains of the New Wave. The label had a good set of hits from the Go-Gos to to Fine Young Cannibals plus some great ’80s nostalgia one-shots like “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Beyond the hits, I.R.S. had some seriously credible artists on the roster like the Cramps and the Buzzcocks.
Some other labels I might consider having a vision would be the Cali-scene Elektra/Asylum run by David Geffin (Eagles, Jackson Browne, Zevon) and Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, which was there to document the ’70s NYC Punk scene.
I’m excluding the major labels and vanity labels meant to release one artists’ work. Apple Corp, for instance, kind of straddles the line between what I’m after and a vanity label. Any labels you could look to for a certain sound or style, that served as a guide to the music as well as the medium of distribution?