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Dance music wasn't always this 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 blossom not out in the open, but in the safe confines of arcane nightclubs and warehouse raves. So how did electronic music break through the glass ceiling?

Before the songs of Above & Beyond, Roger Sanchez, Armin van Buuren, and other legendary producers rattled the world's biggest festival stages, they were auditory ugly ducklings on a quest to reach their full potential. The music always had the potential to fly, but without the help of the gutsy independent record labels willing to back it, its wings would forever remain clipped.

And after all these years, those indies have proven their staying power as the lifeblood of the electronic music scene. caught up with execs from Anjunabeats, Defected Records, and other influential dance music labels to turn back the clock and celebrate their first-ever release—and the history it inspired.


Anjunabeats - Vol. 1

Release Date: June 1st, 2000

"Before Above & Beyond, there was Anjunabeats. Jono and Paavo met at university in London just over 20 years ago and the first track they recorded together as 'Anjunabeats' was simply titled 'Volume 1.'

Tony joined the group not long after and we named the trio Above & Beyond. Anjunabeats—a nod to Anjuna Beach in Goa, India—turned out to be an excellent name for a record label." - Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki, Above & Beyond, Co-Founders

Defected Records

Soulsearcher - Can’t Get Enough

Release Date: February 1st, 1999

I joined Defected as A&R and Promo Manager in 1999 and I remember hearing the record for the first time and straight away it felt like a hit. It started out as an instrumental and was already popular in the clubs. Then the song was added to help it get radio play. The use of the Gary’s Gang ‘Let’s Lovedance Tonight’ sample and the infectious song delivered by Thea Austin was a match made in heaven.

It reached #8 in the UK Singles Charts which was an amazing achievement for a new independent label such as Defected. Back then it was very much down to promoting the record in the clubs and building a buzz on specialist radio shows around the country before plugging to the likes of Kiss 100 and Radio 1 daytime playlisting. It’s a record that grew organically through the club scene and to be honest, Soulsearcher was not a well-known act, but we all knew it was Marc Pomeroy—one 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 drew heavily upon disco was the main sound in most clubs up and down the country so to cross it over to the bigger arena was much more doable back then.

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 calibre. Thea Austin had previously broken out on the hit record ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ by Snap! in 1992 so it was an incredible combination. A real buzz back then, if your record was successful enough, was hearing and seeing it performed live on Top Of The Pops, so that was a real seal of approval when it happened and a true sign that Defected was a capable of competing with the major labels and having hit records. This opened the doors for many more crossover records to come our way by the likes of Powerhouse, Kings Of Tomorrow and Roger Sanchez. - Seamus Haji, A&R

Black Hole Recordings

DJ Tiësto - Tales From The Album Magik

Release Date: December 1997

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

The release did 1,500 units in two months, which we considered a big success, as we started the label in 1997 with basically no money at all, and so we invested every penny we made into manufacturing new releases.

The Tiësto 'Magik' mix compilations grew out to be a genre-defining series and went on to sell hundreds of thousand CDs in the years to come, peaking in 2000 with Chapter Six: Live In Amsterdam." - Arny Bink, Founder 

Armada Music

Motorcycle - As The Rush Comes

Release Date: September 7th, 2003

"'As The Rush Comes' by Motorcycle (Gabriel & Dresden and JES) was the very first record we ever signed for Armada. We actually signed it six months before we started the label, and Armin van Buuren himself remixed this anthem. It sold like mad on vinyl and became a huge hit on Dutch radio as well." - Maykel Piron, CEO and Co-Founder

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Release Date: July 12th, 2011

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Release Date: March 10th, 2015 

"When we first started hanging out back in college, before we had even started talking about the ODESZA project, we had the idea of launching our own label to release our own solo projects music and some of the music our friends were sharing with us.

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Air Raid / Streets of Rage (Flux Pavilion Remix)

Release Date: September 14th, 2009

"The first release on Circus was in the vinyl days, so a classic two-tracker. It was a bona fide collaborative mix-up between the label founders, 'Air Raid' from Flux and Doctor P on the A, the B side was a Flux remix of 'Streets of Rage,' a track Doctor P recorded under his original alias.

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Perfecto Records

Izit - Stories

Release Date: 1989

"This was a track that I came across while I was in Ibiza. I really like the spirit and the energy of it. At the time, it was a modern dance record, so I signed it, released it and it did really well. Welcome to the birth of Perfecto Records." - Paul Oakenfold, Founder


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Release Date: August 5th, 2014

"We’ll never forget the first track we ever released on bitbird, 'The First Route' by Duskus. Listening to it now, 7 years later, we still get goosebumps.

We released it at a time when this new, experimental, colorful bass scene was on the come up. Tracks like this definitely shaped our scene and community. Also, it’s so beautiful to see how an artist like Duskus has developed his sound throughout the years. Even though it changed a lot, he has not lost his vibe one bit." - San Holo, Founder 

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Release Date: June 30th, 2015

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