A Rough Trade Records Profile

Record Store Day 2016 In London
••• Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty Images

Before Rough Trade the label came Rough Trade the record shop. In 1976, Geoff Travis opened the now legendary Rough Trade shop in London with a bunch of records he had picked up on his travels across America. The label division of the shop got started in 1978 with the release of a single by Metal Urbain. The label was initially started as a labor of love and an avenue for local post punk bands and reggae artists who had been putting their home recordings in the Rough Trade shop to release their records more formally, but everything changed with Geoff Travis stumbled onto The Smiths.

  • What: Independent Record Label Rough Trade Records
  • Where: London, UK
  • Founded by: Geoff Travis
  • Founded: 1978

The 1980s, The Smiths, and Major Success

The Smiths, hands down one of the most successful indie bands ever, already had a deal with Manchester's landmark label Factory Records, but things took off for both them and Rough Trade when Rough Trade convinced the band to release a single via that label. Hand in Glove became a cult favorite in the UK and put Rough Trade on the map. Convincing The Smiths to sign to them full time, Rough Trade grew in popularity with the band, having both chart success and becoming a critics' favorite label. The money earned working with The Smiths helped Rough Trade move in a new, and doomed, direction - Rough Trade Distribution.

Distribution Disaster

Around the mid-1980s, riding high on the success of The Smiths, Rough Trade decided to get into the distribution game. Their heart was in the right place; they were trying to use their position to give other indie labels a leg up in the competitive distribution world, but unfortunately, it soon became apparent that Rough Trade had bitten off more than it could chew. Rough Trade Distribution went belly up in 1990, and the label went under with it. The collapse of Rough Trade Distribution was also a hardship for other indie labels who worked with them, and several other smaller labels fell during this time as well.

Don't Call it a Comeback

But it really is one of the best ones in music. After the bankruptcy, Travis kept his head down and his hand in music for a few years, until the mid-1990s when he managed to buy back the rights to the Rough Trade name. The label was reborn, and it has since gone on to become more successful than ever.

In the ensuing years, Rough Trade wasn't always indie. A distant shareholder, Zomba Music Group (via Sanctuary), was bought out by BMG in 2000, briefly bringing Rough Trade into the major label fold. This rather oddball arrangement ended in 2007, and Rough Trade became indie again after being sold to​ Beggar's Group.

Rough Trade Records Artists

Rough Trade has a roster of more than 200 releases, and many bands have passed in and out of the ranks through the years. As an indie label, Rough Trade doesn't put out all of their artists in every territory. The full Rough Trade catalog can be found on their website. Some of the most memorable of their acts are listed here:

Rough Trade Demo Policy

Rough Trade does accept demos, but they prefer to receive them via email to cut down on paper usage. Only one song may be sent per email in MP3 or MP4 file format only; they cannot open WMA files.

Working at Rough Trade

Rough Trade does not have a standard policy for applying for a job in any of their divisions (the label, the shop, the management arm of the label or the production arm). If you're interested in employment opportunities at the label, the best way to get the ball rolling is to contact them and ask them about job openings or if you can send your CV to be kept on file.