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Great Record Labels: Art On A Small Round Canvas

Posted by James Duncan on

We thought it would be fun to create a pictorial essay of the kaleidoscope of record label designs created over the years. The creative services teams at record labels, composed of artists and graphic designers, were responsible for creating these artworks.

They had to be eye catching, represent both the record label brand and the artist, and do this all in the 3.5" (45s) or 4" (LPs) diameter circle of paper that would get pressed into the hot vinyl of the record during manufacture.

array of 45 vinyl record designs

Some labels wanted people to rely on their label for a certain genre of music during certain eras. Atlantic, IRS, Def Jam come to mind as examples of this. Other labels varied their labels by genre of artist or created custom labels for their most successful artists.

Everyone is familiar with major label record logos and designs. We all grew up with these labels in our record collections. Interestingly though, labels varied by country, year released (first pressing vs. later pressing), and other factors. Some of the labels you see here are from early pressings, some from late, and some are from the U.K. or elsewhere:

record label art

classic record labelsrecord label art

80s classic record labels

As an artist became more successful, often the record label would create personalized labels for their releases:
artist customized record labels
artist themed record labels
artist themed record labels
Some artists simply started their own labels, although usually with the help of a major label for manufacturing and distribution:
artist started record labels
Designers of 45s had a little less canvas to work with but they made up for it with eye-catching art designed to catch a record buyer's attention. Check out these relatively obscure record label designs. These labels are mostly all from the 60s and 70s and most, but not all, are either defunct and out of business today. Or the label is owned by one of today's three major label groups (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, or Warner Music Group) awaiting the day when they might possibly be revived:
cool record labels
cool 45 record labels
cool 45 designs
Here are some more cool designs on various LPs, 45s and special issues:
cool record label designs
cool record label designs
Great record labels
great record labels

Let's close this article with another one of the best designs ever, the short-lived Chocolate City Records, which was run by Cecil Holmes, Neil Bogart's partner at Casablanca Records:

Chocolate City Records label

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