14 of the best record label logos

Five of the best record label logos on a gradient background
(Image credit: Reinforced Records / Nervous Records / Island Records / Blue Note / Ghostly International)

The best record label logos often become iconic, sometimes coming to represent a genre of music. And while many people no longer see them on physical objects like vinyls and CD covers, record label logos are still a vital aspect of a record company's work to create an identity that both artists want to sign and consumers want to buy into. 

Many of the longest running and most successful record labels are instantly recognisable by their logo, while the designs of more niche record labels have often gained cult status. Here are 14 of the best record label logo designs to inspire you. For more musical logo inspiration, see our pick of the best band logos.

The best record label logos

The Sub Pop logo, one of the best record label logos

Sub Pop deliberately chose a stark, corporate logo to gain brand prominence

Inspired by the clean lines of labels such as Blue Note and Motown, Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt had a very clear idea of how he wanted to brand his legendary Seattle label, Sub Pop. And decision to go for a stark, comparatively corporate design paid off in spades. 

"We were trying to be very consistent in our packaging, very consistent in our sound, really putting focus on the region, in the same way that Motown put focus on Detroit Soul," Pavitt told Fast Company in 2012. "We saw what was there; we connected the dots; and we tightened it up so that anyone in the world could pick up a record and go, 'oh, Sub Pop.' We created fans that would pretty much buy anything on the label."

The Alternative Tentacles logo, one of the best record label logos

Alternative Tentacles has been keeping the homeland insecure since 1979

Established in 1979 as a label name for the Dead Kennedys' self-produced single, California Über Alles, Alternative Tentacles swiftly became home to many of the leading lights of the American alternative and punk scenes, including Nomeansno, D.O.A and the Butthole Surfers. 

Its bat logo, designed by Winston Smith, a collage artist best known for his cut-up artwork for the Dead Kennedys, is a powerful punk-rock take on the Seal of the President of the United States.

The Factory Records logo, one of the best record label logos

The Factory Records logo has become as iconic as the label itself

Legendary Manchester-based label Factory Records launched in 1978, and featured several prominent musical acts – including Joy Division and The Happy Mondays – until the early 90s. The record label's iconic logo includes a graphic rendering of Manchester's industrial skyline.

The Harvest Records logo, one of the best record label logos

Artist Roger Dean designed the logo for EMI's Harvest records

Internationally recognised artist and designer Roger Dean was the man behind the logo design for Harvest records. The label was launched by EMI in 1969 to market progressive rock music, and was home to artists such as Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. the logo is a minimalist interpretation of a harvest moon over a valley, showing that even complex scenes can be stylised in a simple memorable logo.

The Apple Records logo, one of the best record label logos

Gene Mahon developed the concept for the internationally recognised symbol for Apple Records

The corporate logo design for the Beatles' multimedia company Apple Records was created by Gene Mahon. The simple yet effective design featured a bright green Granny Smith apple, obviously. Albums featured the common fruit whole on its A-side and the apple cut in half on its B-side. Famously, the company has sued the tech company Apple several times over its name and the Apple logo.

06. Nervous Records

The Nervous Records logo, one of the best record label logos

Nervous Records can be recognised instantly by its cartoon character logo

Founded back in 1991, Nervous Records can be recognised immediately by its eye-catching cartoon character logo. The New York City record label for underground house music and hip-hop has been home to artists such as Armand Van Helden, Masters At Work and Kim English.

The Reinforced Records logo, one of the best record label logos

British electronic music artist Goldie developed the logo for Reinforced Records

Reinforced Records was started by Marc Mac and Gus Lawrence in 1989. Throughout the 90s, it earned a reputation as one of the most important and innovative drum'n'bass labels in the world. During this time, the duo met Goldie and, in exchange for artwork and logo design, let him work in their Dollis Hill studio. The logo design is a classic example of the aesthetic from the early days of breakbeat hardcore, combining a big graffiti-like letter, circuit boards and what looks almost like some form of alien hieroglyphics around the edge.

The Sympathy for the Record Industry logo, one of the best record label logos

A cool logo for this independent garage rock and punk label

This eye-catching logo belongs to record label Sympathy for the Record Industry. The independent, mainly garage rock and punk label has been active since 1988. Owned by American entrepreneur Long Gone John, notable artists who started with Sympathy include The White Stripes and American alternative rock band Hole.

The Warp records logo, one of the best record label logos

Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic was the man behind the Warp logo design

Warp (aka Warp Records) is an independent British record label, founded in 1989 by Steve Beckett, the late Rob Mitchell and Robert Gordon. The company's instantly recognisable logo was designed the same year by Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic. It's simple, bold and instantly recognisable.

The Islands Records logo, one of the best record label logos

Island's famous silhouette palm tree logo has featured on many albums

Island Records was founded in Jamaica in 1959 by Chris Blackwell, Graeme Goodall and Leslie Kong. Its distinctive silhouette palm tree logo has been on many famous albums from artists such as Bob Marley and U2. It is now based in New York City, and forms part of UMG Recordings.

The Earache Records logo, one of the best record label logos

Mark Leahry developed this detailed logo to celebrate the label's 25th anniversary

Joshua M. Smith (the Orlando-based designer also known as Hydro74) created this amazing logo design last year as the label celebrated 25 years in the business. The distinctive graphic captures the label's extreme metal genre perfectly.

The Motown logo, one of the best record label logos

Motown record label began using this iconic symbol on its albums in 1965

Another legendary record label, Motown had a series of logos over the years. Probably its most famous is this square 'M' logo, which the company began using in 1965. The iconic graphic became instantly recognisable as the symbol for the Motown brand.

Blue Note logo, one of the best record label logos

the Blue Note logo is simple but unmistakable (Image credit: Blue Note)

We mentioned Blue Note above for its influence on the Sub Pop logo, so it's only fair that its identity also makes it to our list of the best record label logos. Founded in 1939 by German-Jewish emigrants Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, Blue Note derived its name from the blue notes of jazz and the blues, and the logo design also alludes to this. It's a logo design that show how simple can be powerful. 

The Ghostly International logo, one of the best record label logos

(Image credit: Ghostly International)

Brooklyn-headquartered Ghostly International is known for its experimental electronic music, and its logo design, a very literal reference to its name has become iconic. Often seen as a sticker on everything from decks to MacBooks, its sleek minimalism has been backed up by stunning artwork and packaging across the record label's output. The design has made Ghostly merchandise popular too.

For more logo design inspiration, see our piece on the best new logos and our round up of subtle logos changes that made a big difference.

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.

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