The beauty of being an independent record label

The music industry might be struggling for sales, but the UK's shrewdest small record labels flourish. We should all celebrate Independents Day, says Elisa Bray
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Independents Day was established last year to celebrate music released on independent record labels and tomorrow, 4 July, labels around the world will be holding their own events. While physical sales of music continue to fall and live shows bring in the revenue, savvy labels are increasingly signing bands up to 360 model deals, including bands' live takings, as well as their recordings.

Around the world, each country is choosing a different focus on promoting independent music. This year, America is focusing on the industry's future by organising the world's first global think tank, with independent record label reps from around the world gathering to discuss the changing nature of the music industry and to ask what labels now mean to artists. In Japan, music fans buying an album by an independent artist in their Tower Records stores are given a free CD-sampler compilation of independent artists and a gig ticket. Italy, meanwhile, has released a song to mark the day, and Spain are holding their first awards ceremony to reward the best music in the independent sector.

Alison Wenham, Chairman of the Association of Independent Music, said: "This is the second year of Independents Day and we are delighted to see that more countries are joining the annual celebrations by adding the unique identities of their territories. There is no doubt that Independents Day will become a permanent feature around the world." In a nod to live music being an important part of the future of British independent music, a clutch of the UK's most renowned and distinct independent labels are curating gigs next week at London's ICA. Here are a few of the best events.

Bella Union

Bella Union, home to some of the most successful contemporary Americana and alternative folk and rock acts, including Fleet Foxes and Midlake, was founded by the Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde in 1997. With a penchant for Americana, alternative folk, post-rock and dream pop, they have Beach House, the Low Anthem, the Dirty Three and Explosions in the Sky on their roster. Their break-out band of 2007 was Midlake, with their album The Trials of Van Occupanther, and they repeated their success last year with Fleet Foxes and the band's acclaimed EP and eponymous debut album. The label's ethos to "find and nurture and talented and unique artists that we love and feel passionate about" shows in the consistent quality of the acts. If you like one of their bands, chances are you'll like more. Bella Union are showcasing four bands on Monday: Danish purveyors of soothing, slow-paced pop Chimes and Bells, new Brooklyn band Here We Go Magic, the singer-songwriter Sleeping States and Scottish indie rock headliners My Latest Novel.

Rough Trade East

The independent store in London's Brick Lane furthered its reputation for being at the centre of the hippest music around by hosting secret gigs for some of the biggest bands, including Radiohead, and, most recently, Blur. As curators of the Tuesday night, they have selected the Jamaican rapper Terry Lynn, the blues-funk sibling duo Joe Gideon & the Shark and Cymbals Eat Guitars, who put their own electro spin on shoegaze indie.

Beggars Group

The daddy of indies, Beggars Banquet became the largest independent label group in Europe when it took 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade and XL Recordings under its umbrella. Many big hitters are with XL – Radiohead signed to the indie after leaving EMI, and it's also home to a crossover of artists, including Vampire Weekend and Jack Penate. 4AD, meanwhile, boast Pixies, Emma Pollock of the Delgados, Balkan pop troubadour Beirut and Brooklyn's indie rock band the National. Rough Trade are home to Jarvis Cocker and British Sea Power, while Matador are the base for Yo La Tengo. Their acts St Vincent, the multi-instrumentalist artist Annie Clark who used to play in both Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens's band, and Blue Roses, aka Laura Groves, another one-woman act to watch out for, are performing on Wednesday, 8 July.

Fat Cat/One Little Indian

Independent labels have been responsible for discovering many successful bands, signing up acts with just demos to their name, and Fat Cat is no different. Credited with discovering not only Sigur Rós, putting out the Icelandic band's first international releases, the label also discovered the New York band Animal Collective. Their night on Thursday has another of the week's highlights, the strident Scottish folk band Twilight Sad. One Little Indian, whose new harmonising blues rockers Kill It Kid are playing, is still home to Björk.

Ninja Tune

Recognisable by the ninja logo gracing its album sleeves, the label Ninja Tune was established by the Coldcut duo Matt Black and Jonathan More back in 1993 and has been bringing us cutting-edge dance music ever since.

Specialists in electronica, nu jazz and alternative hip-hop, the artists on their roster include Mr Scruff, DJ Food and Hexstatic. They curate the Friday night with a number of their acts, including DJ Food, the experimental producer Daedelus, new signing Grasscut and a late night DJ set from King Cannibal.

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