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Documentaries about Record Labels

The Top Documentaries about Record Labels You Should Watch

Are you curious about the inner workings of the music industry? We've curated a list of the top documentaries about record labels, from Motown to Stax

Intro: Documentaries about Record Labels

Step into any record store and you'll find a dizzying array of music in every genre imaginable. But how did these records get there? To discover the backstory of so much great music, look no further than to the record labels that created it. From Motown to Stax, Atlantic Records to Island Records, behind each piece of acclaimed music lay the drive, ambition and occasional chaos that is associated with the world's best record labels. If you are eager to explore them further, here are our top picks for must-watch documentaries about some of the greatest record labels of all time.

1. Our Generation: Motown - Documentaries about Record Labels

Get ready to take a trip back to one of the most beloved eras in music history – as Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Otis Williams, Mary Wilson and more take us on an electrifying journey through Motown Records! In this documentary, we explore the fascinating story behind Motown while being regaled with some of its most iconic tracks, making for an unforgettable experience. Featuring interviews from Duke Fakir, Uriel Jones, Robin Seymour, Charlie Beckham, Robin Terry, Prof. Gregory Sumner and Anthony DeCurtis, you’ll get all the scoops on what made Motown so beloved and renowned. So don’t miss out on your chance to experience this powerful documentary and revisit the classics that made Motown an era-defining phenomenon.

2. BBC's 2 Tone The Sound of Coventry - Documentaries about Record Labels

From the gritty industrial streets of Coventry, England to the airwaves of the world, 2 Tone Records became an international sensation. Take a look at the documentary that tells the story of how a small record label created a musical movement with a message that reverberated around the globe. Through interviews, archival footage and electrifying performances by Terry Hall & The Specials, The Selector, Madness, The Beat and Bodysnatchers, explore how 2 Tone revolutionized ska music and encapsulated the spirit of unity in the face of social injustice.

With energetic rhythms, cleverly crafted samples and witty, socially conscious lyrics, 2Tone was made for anyone who wanted to make a statement. Chart success and notoriety soon followed, catapulting 2 Tone into '80s and '90s classics. In this documentary, we look back at the rise and fall of one of Britain’s most influential record labels and explore how 2 Tone shaped a generation and helped define a genre.

3. Atlantic Records Documentary – The Independent Years – Hip to the Tip -Documentaries about Record Labels

Atlantic Records is the quintessential record label that has shaped musical history like no other. From its early days as an independent label to its current identity as one of the biggest names in the music industry, Atlantic Records has been responsible for some of the most iconic and influential soundtracks of the past century. From Aretha Franklin's soulful stamps on R&B and Ray Charles' bluesy renditions to Wilson Pickett's timeless classics and Otis Redding’s smooth grooves, Atlantic Records has left its unmistakable mark on generations of audiences. Now, join us as we inspect this label extraordinary journey from independent roots to becoming one of the major players on the international stage. This is the story of Atlantic Records –The Independent Years.


4. Respect Yourself – The Story of Stax Records - Documentaries about Record Labels

From their humble beginnings as Satellite Records, run out of a shabby Memphis garage by two siblings and their business partners, Stax Records made an indelible mark in American music. Their iconic sound captured the spirit of the South in a way no other record label had achieved before. Their racially integrated team of staff and artists not only defied the constraints of 1960s America, but created some of the most loved Soul and Blues music ever recorded—showing that harmony was a language everyone could understand. Join us as we take an in-depth look into the story behind the iconic southern sound that put Stax Records on the map.

5. Heavenly Pop Hits: The Flying Nun Story - Record Labels Documentaries

In 2002, this documentary unleashed the story of Flying Nun Records. Founded by Roger Shepherd and with Chris Knox at its helm, the New Zealand-based label left an indelible mark on indie rock—but it didn't do so alone! Coupling interviews with Shepherd and Knox with profiles of major acts like The Chills, The Verlaines, Straitjacket Fits, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement and more, the film is a must-see for anyone eager to get to know the glorious (and gloriously quirky!) Dunedin Sound.

6. Chess Records Documentary - Documentaries about Record Labels

Chess Records was the blues label you didn’t want to mess with. Formed in 1950 on the streets of gritty Chicago, it never lost its edge – producing some of the most influential music of all time along the way! From raw rhythms and soulful beats to jazz and rock & roll, this record label defied categorization and kept audiences entertained. Reaching cult-like status with legendary artists like Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James, Chess Records defined America's booming post-war culture, leaving their undeniable imprint on an ever-evolving music industry. Get ready for some toe-tapping beats, deep-seated emotions, and classic comedic gems from Chess Records, the greatest blues label of all time!

7. Joy Division to Happy Mondays – Factory Records – BBC - Documentaries about Record Labels

From Joy Division's raw, gloomy post-punk to the Happy Mondays' Madchester sound, join us on a journey through the glory days of Factory Records—the iconic British label that shook up the music world and changed the social landscape of Britain forever. From the dark depths of post-punk Manchester under the oppressive shadow of Thatcherism, Factory Records rose like a phoenix from the ashes and revolutionized the industry with its sharp wit and irrepressible style. Discover the stories behind such legends as New Order, A Certain Ratio, and the Hacienda Club, uncover the secrets at the heart of Factory Records, and get an intimate look at the musical juggernaut that was Tony Wilson's vision. So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for an unforgettable ride through Factory Records.

8. Keep on Running: – 50 Years of Island Records - Documentaries about Record Labels

When you think of Island Records, you probably think of your favorite hit bands, like Bob Marley and the Wailers and U2. However, did you know that Island Records is also one of the oldest record labels in the world? In 1959, Blackwell's mission to introduce Jamaica and its music to the world launched Island Records, and his commitment to discovering and supporting emerging talent continues to shape music today. Since then, Island has been a launching pad for some of the biggest stars in music, from U2 to Amy Winehouse. This video documentary follows the incredible journey of Island Records from a single, modest studio in Kingston, Jamaica, to one of the most iconic and influential record labels in the world.

9. My Virgin Records Story -Documentaries about Record Labels

Ready to revel in the legendary success story of one of the greatest independent record labels of all time? Follow along with Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, as he takes us on a journey through four decades of chart-topping hits and cultural milestones. From Mike Oldfield to The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols to Janet Jackson, there's no denying that Virgin Records left an indelible mark on music history. Let Branson himself show you how it all began; you won't want to miss this legendary tale!

10. At Home with Sub Pop – PBS Documentary, 1993 - Documentaries about Record Labels

Dive into the captivating world of Sub Pop Records with this PBS Documentary from 1993. Featuring interviews with the record label's founders, Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, as well as music clips from bands like Nirvana, The Fastbacks, The Monkeywrench, The Walkabouts, Afghan Whigs, and Dwarves--there's truly something for everyone in this unforgettable episode. Join us as we explore the remarkable rise of Sub Pop and learn about how this revolutionary label shook up the music industry!

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