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An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels

ISBN: 978-1-942173-11-3
Publisher: Common Notions
Release: October 2019
Format: Paperback, smyth-sewn binding
Size: 5 X 9.5
Page count: 208
Subjects: Music / Social Movements

An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels is a compendium of information about political music and radical cultural production. Focusing on vinyl records and the labels that released them, this groundbreaking book traces the parallel rise of social movements in the second half of the twentieth century and the vinyl record as the dominant form of music distribution.

Just as the Civil Rights Movement leaps onto mainstream headlines in the early 1960s, the 33rpm “Long Player” and 45rpm single invade people’s stereos. All the major Civil Rights organizations release vinyl records of speeches, movement songs, and field recordings—setting the pace for the intertwining of social movements and easily distributed sound recordings. This relationship continues through the end of the twentieth century, which marked both the end of apartheid in South Africa and the dominance of the vinyl format.

From A-Disc (the record label of the Swedish Labor Movement) to Zulu Records (the label of free jazz pioneer Phil Choran), An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels is a compelling panorama of political sound and action, including over 750 record labels that produced political music. Each entry features the logo of the label, a brief synopsis of its history, and additional interesting information. Truly international in scope, over two dozen countries and territories are represented, as well as a myriad of musical styles and forms.

Originally self-published in zine format in 2017, Josh MacPhee has teamed up with publisher Common Notions to produce a full-scale book version of the encyclopedia.


“Josh MacPhee has done a great service for all of us interested in the intersection of independent records and radical politics. Encompassing as it does such a wide variety of political voices in the international underground of record making, the encyclopedia paradoxically almost shrinks the world by fostering a vision of a community working without borders in varied strains of solidarity even if not always in full view or knowledge of each other. Every entry opens a window onto a different story of creativity and resistance and I couldn’t stop hopscotching around from page to page, each one sparking off vectors for further thought and exploration. A totally mind-blowing accomplishment.”
—Guy Picciotto, Fugazi

“To open Josh MacPhee’s compendium of political record labels is to be blasted by a hurricane of compassionate creativity [that provides] potent fuel for today’s struggles. The book’s message is clear: go and do likewise!”
—Mark Andersen, author of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capitol

“This book is a delight. It’s a book full of hope, of daring, of community, and kinship. It’s a book full of enthusiasm and passion. And most of all, it’s a book full of inspiration—for anyone flicking through the logos and headings, a book to make you think, ‘I could do that.’”
—Boff Whalley, Chumbawamba

“Above all, An Encyclopedia is testimony to the vastness and variety of music devoted to humanity’s liberation.”
—Mat Callahan, musician and author of The Explosion of Deferred Dreams and The Trouble with Music

“It is works like this one that provide a refreshingly different lens through which to view cultural production in its vinyl form.”
Mediated Signals

Associated Artists

Culture & MediaHistoryInspirationSocial Movements
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