The role of record labels in dance music has become more diverse and important since the growth of the genre exploded to where it is today. Fans have their list of favorite labels, which are generally along the lines of their favorite artists and sub-genres. Many artists own and run labels throughout dance music, and the immeasurable number of sub-genres in dance music may only be overshadowed by the countless amounts of labels. Despite the crazy competition for dollars and attention among these labels, many stand-out in a variety of ways. Anjunabeats, Armada Music, Never Say Die, Mad Decent, Dim Mak, Spinnin’, and many more are followed and appreciated as closely as the artists themselves. They consistently release the singles, EPs, and albums we all enjoy on a daily basis, while some releases collaborative mixes, albums, and other group projects. Skrillex’s OWSLA, for example, is releasing OWSLA Worldwide Broadcast, a compilation album featuring new tunes from Getter, Ghastly, Mija, Alvin Risk, and the label-founder himself. OWSLA has been a fan-favorite of dance music fans since its creation in 2011, doing all of the things that fans love and appreciate. Releasing new music regularly, showcasing new and upcoming talent, and helping us expand our musical horizons with ease are all reasons OWSLA gets the praise from fans that it does. But, it’s really not about us. While we are the consumer of the goods produced by labels, unlike the proverbial customer, we are not always right. Of course, everyone can listen to and enjoy whatever they want. But if labels focused solely on profit (which we’re sure some do), and pushing songs that would be most consumed, we’d all despise mainstream, popular music more than we already do. It would also stifle creativity, and the resources put toward creating new and never-before-heard sounds and styles, would evaporate. Thankfully, that’s not entirely happening. Yet. While we may be the ones most catered to by record labels, and some artists, we are obviously not the ones most affected by the quality of these labels. Therefore, what makes a quality label changes. With the value being placed on the artist rather than the fan, what are the factors that make a quality label? From a fan’s perspective, it’s hard to know. The basics are there: treat artists right, find new artists, release lots of cool, new music. Knowing what exactly that entails is hard for the average dance music fan to understand. It’s nearly impossible to know which labels could even be doing what we think we would want from a quality, artist-driven label. Apart from reading bits of news, and statements from artists or the labels themselves, much of the pertinent information regarding artist-label relationships is of the NDA variety. If it’s not about us, and we can’t even tell whether or not what we want makes a difference, then how do we make sure that we’re supporting the labels that deserve it the most? Labels are incredibly important to the growth and health of dance music, and giving money to those without the best intentions is something we’d all like to try and avoid. For guidance, we return to OWSLA. They have a great roster of young talent, which is refreshed on a regular basis. They continue to attract some of the biggest and most talented up-and-coming acts in dance music, and consistently release tunes from these artists. As a fan, who’s concerned about supporting the right people in the huge, sometimes scary, EDM industry, it’s hard to ask for much more. So, we consume, it’s what we do. But we do it intelligently, and with reason. We make sure that, when we support record labels with our powerful, and fleeting, dollars, that we do it with the right ones, as best we can. Let us know what a quality record label is to you, and which labels are you favorite. Comment below, on Facebook, or reply on Twitter! Heath Harshman Born and raised in the Northwest, professionalized in Pullman. Enjoying the ride that dance music provides in our lovely corner of the country.