The 14 Best Documentaries about Record Labels

Jul 27, 2023 | Best Of, Music

Music lovers rejoice! There’s a plethora of amazing music out there, and behind each piece lies the drive, ambition and chaos that is associated with the world’s best record labels. From Motown to Stax, Atlantic Records to Island Records – these are the stories behind some of our favorite records. To discover more about these influential record labels, here are our top picks for must-watch documentaries about them. So if you’re eager to explore the exciting backstories of some of your favorite musical hits, this list is sure to provide you with plenty of entertainment!


1. At Home with Sub Pop – PBS Documentary, 1993

Dive into the captivating world of Sub Pop Records with this PBS Documentary from 1993. Get an inside look at how Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, founders of the revolutionary label, shook up the music industry! Featuring interviews with them plus clips from bands like Nirvana, The Fastbacks, The Monkeywrench, The Walkabouts, Afghan Whigs and Dwarves–this unforgettable episode has something for everyone. Learn about the remarkable rise of Sub Pop as we explore this amazing record label’s story in detail!


2. My Virgin Records Story

Do you want to know the story behind one of the most successful independent record labels in history? Then this is the video for you! Join Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, as he takes us back four decades and shows us how it all began. From Mike Oldfield to The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols to Janet Jackson – take a ride through music history with some of the biggest chart-topping hits and cultural milestones. Be sure not to miss this legendary tale!


3. Keep on Running: – 50 Years of Island Records

Since its inception in 1959, Island Records has been a trailblazer in the music industry. From Bob Marley and the Wailers to U2 to Amy Winehouse, Island Records has launched some of the biggest stars in music history. This documentary takes you on a journey through 50 years of Island Records’ influence and impact on the world’s musical landscape – from its humble beginnings as a single studio in Jamaica, to becoming one of the most iconic record labels around. Get ready for an incredible story full of amazing talent and pioneering spirit!


4. Joy Division to Happy Mondays – Factory Records

Join us on an exploration of the iconic Factory Records, the British label that changed the music world and social landscape of Britain forever. From Joy Division’s post-punk to Happy Mondays’ Madchester sound, we’ll discover how Tony Wilson’s vision revolutionized the industry with its sharp wit and irrepressible style. Get a behind-the-scenes look at New Order, A Certain Ratio, and The Hacienda Club – uncovering secrets at the heart of Factory Records. Learn about life in post-punk Manchester under Thatcherism as you prepare yourself for a captivating journey through one of Britain’s most influential record labels!


5. Chess Records Documentary

Chess Records was an iconic record label that transcended genres and made waves in the music industry. With its roots in Chicago, this influential post-war label featured some of the most legendary artists like Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Etta James. Get ready for a journey through time as we explore Chess Records – from raw rhythms to soulful beats to jazz and rock & roll! Discover how this remarkable blues label defied categorization and left an undeniable imprint on America’s culture. Relive classic comedic gems and experience toe-tapping beats with deep emotions – all part of Chess Records – the greatest blues label of all time!


6. Heavenly Pop Hits: The Flying Nun Story

This 2002 documentary reveals the remarkable story of Flying Nun Records, a New Zealand-based label that left an indelible mark on indie rock. Founded by Roger Shepherd and with Chris Knox at its helm, interviews with both of these men are featured in the film along with profiles of major acts like The Chills, The Verlaines, Straitjacket Fits, Stephen Malkmus from Pavement and more! Learn about the glorious Dunedin Sound as you watch this must-see film for anyone eager to get to know Heavenly Pop Hits: The Flying Nun Story – Record Labels Documentaries.


7. Respect Yourself – The Story of Stax Records

Stax Records, a record label that started out as Satellite Records in a Memphis garage run by two siblings and their business partners, left an indelible mark on American music. Defying the constraints of 1960s America with its racially integrated team of staff and artists, they created some of the most beloved Soul and Blues hits ever recorded—demonstrating how harmony can be a language everyone understands. Learn more about this iconic southern sound in our documentary, Respect Yourself – The Story Of Stax Records! We take an inside look at how it all began and what made it so special.


8. Atlantic Records Documentary – The Independent Years

Atlantic Records is a musical giant that has shaped the soundtracks of our lives. From Aretha Franklin’s soulful R&B to Wilson Pickett’s timeless classics, this label has left an unforgettable mark on generations of audiences. Here we explore the fascinating journey of Atlantic Records – from its independent roots to becoming one of the biggest names in the music industry. Join us as we delve into The Independent Years and witness how one record label changed history forever!


9. BBC’s 2 Tone The Sound of Coventry

From the industrial streets of Coventry, England to the airwaves of the world, 2 Tone Records made an incredible mark on music history. In this documentary we explore how a small record label created a movement that reverberated around the globe with its message and electrifying performances. We’ll take a look at interviews, archival footage and live performances from Terry Hall & The Specials, The Selector, Madness, The Beat and Bodysnatchers – all part of 2Tone’s energetic rhythms and witty lyrics that helped define ska music. Chart success soon followed for this influential label as they rose to become ’80s and ’90s classics.


10. Our Generation: Motown

Take a journey to one of the most iconic eras in music history with our documentary about Motown Records. Featuring interviews from Duke Fakir, Uriel Jones, Robin Seymour, Charlie Beckham, Robin Terry Prof. Gregory Sumner and Anthony DeCurtis – this documentary will take you on an electrifying journey through the fascinating story behind Motown’s incredible success! Listen to some of its most beloved tracks while getting all the scoops on what made it so renowned. Don’t miss out on your chance to experience this powerful documentary and relive the classics that defined an era!


11. The Truth About Record Labels × How Record Deals Really Work

Do you want to know how record labels really work? Join me in this episode as I uncover the truth about record labels and how they take advantage of artists. We will learn all about the deals that are made between artist and label, so you can understand what is going on behind the scenes. Discovering these secrets can help protect your music career from exploitation and ensure that you get a fair deal!


12. The music industry is literally a scam

The music industry can be a dangerous place for those who don’t know enough about the business. In this documentary, we will uncover how many artists are taken advantage of and scammed by powerful figures in the entertainment industry. We’ll explore the history of scams within music, and provide tips on how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of as an artist. Join us on this journey exploring The Music Industry’s Scam – you won’t want to miss it!


13. The Music Industry’s Darkest Secret

The music industry has a notorious past. In this series we’ll explore the seedy underbelly of the business, from its ties to organized crime to its manipulation of record charts. Unearth stories that have been kept hidden for years and get an in-depth look at what really happens behind closed doors in the music industry. Follow us as we take you on a journey through some of the darkest secrets it holds.


14. Record Labels: The Biggest Scam in Hip Hop

Record labels have long been a major part of the Hip Hop industry, but are they still necessary in today’s digital age? In this video, we explore how record labels have become the biggest scam in Hip Hop and what artists can do to take back control. We look at the power of social media and online distribution for artists to reach audiences around the world without having to rely on record labels. We also discuss how modern musicians can make their voice heard with just tools that are available at their fingertips – empowering them to be masters of their own destiny!

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B