|Parent company||Beggars Group|
|Distributor(s)||Beggars Group (through Alternative Distribution Alliance)|
|Country of origin||England, UK|
|Location||London; New York|
XL Recordings (or simply XL) is an English independent record label founded in 1989 by Richard Russell, Tim Palmer and Nick Halkes, and owned by Russell and Beggars Group. The label originated as a 1989 offshoot of Beggars Banquet Records.
Though only releasing an average of six albums a year, XL Recordings has worked with Adele, Beck, Dizzee Rascal, Electric Six, FKA twigs, Gil Scott-Heron, Gotan Project, The Horrors, Jai Paul, M.I.A., The Prodigy, Peaches, Radiohead, Sampha, SBTRKT, Sigur Rós, Tyler, the Creator, Vampire Weekend, The White Stripes and The xx. The label releases albums worldwide and operates across a range of genres.
1980s and 1990s
The label was launched in 1989 to release rave and dance music. It was originally an offshoot of Beggars Banquet Records' more commercial dance label called Citybeat which was known for records by acts such as Freeez, Starlight, Dream Frequency and the Ultramagnetic MCs. However, with the success of acts such as The Prodigy and SL2, XL superseded Citybeat in the company's line up.
During the early nineties, XL Recordings releases were dance oriented ranging from Belgium techno (T99 "Anasthasia") to breakbeat hardcore (SL2 "On a Ragga Tip") to drum and bass (Jonny L "I'm Leavin'"). This period of XL's history has been recorded on the XL Recordings Chapters compilation series. In 1993 Halkes left XL to form the EMI-owned commercial dance label Positiva, and subsequently his own independent commercial dance label Incentive. After Palmer retired Russell took over the running of the business.
Russell later broadened the musical horizons of the label whilst maintaining a credo of working with artists he saw as original and inventive. In 1994 the label released The Prodigy's second album, Music for the Jilted Generation which debuted in the UK Albums Chart at number one, and in 1997 it released the third album by The Prodigy, The Fat of the Land which entered the British and American charts at number one and went on to be number one in 26 countries.
June 2000 saw the release of Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast which won the 2000 Mercury Music Prize. The next year, The White Stripes third album White Blood Cells was released together with reissues of the band's previous albums, The White Stripes and De Stijl. In 2003 XL Recordings won the Music Week A&R award, and also released The White Stripes fourth album Elephant which was their first UK number one album and eventually reached double platinum certification in Britain. In the same year XL released Dizzee Rascal's first solo album, Boy in da Corner for which Dizzee was awarded the Mercury Prize for the best album of 2003.
In March 2005, M.I.A.'s debut album Arular was released after several months delay. Thom Yorke, from Radiohead, released his first solo record, The Eraser, on the label in July 2006. In October 2007, Radiohead completed negotiations to sign with XL for physical release of their seventh studio album, In Rainbows. Radiohead subsequently went on to release through XL, and have so far released everything since their eighth studio album The King Of Limbs on the label. As director of XL Recordings, Richard Russell was included in a 2007 Evening Standard list of the most influential people in London, and in August of that year M.I.A.'s second album Kala was released—Rolling Stone named it the ninth best album of the decade.
In March 2008 XL added Friendly Fires and The Horrors. In 2009 the label won the "Music Week" Best Independent Label award; Adele won the awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, and at the same ceremony Radiohead won Best Alternative Album for In Rainbows as well as Best Boxed or Special Edition Album. Also in 2009, The xx's debut album xx was released on XL Recordings partner label Young Turks, and in September Giggs was signed.
On 11 January 2010, XL Recordings released Vampire Weekend's second album Contra. It was the band's first album to reach number one on the US Billboard 200. Gil Scott-Heron's thirteenth studio album I'm New Here was released in February; it was Scott-Heron's first release of original material in sixteen years and proved to be his last studio album. Recording sessions for the album took place between 2007 and 2009 and production was handled by XL Recordings-owner Richard Russell.
In July, XL signed Jai Paul, who was shortlisted for BBC's Sound of 2011, and in September the xx's eponymous debut album won the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, acquiring best British and Irish album of the year.
On 24 January 2011, XL Recordings released the album 21 by Adele. In February the (then) 19-year-old OFWGKTA member Tyler, the Creator was signed for a one-album deal for his second studio album and commercial debut Goblin. Singer Gil Scott-Heron died in May and his final recordings, "I'm New Here" (produced by Richard Russell), and the remix album, "We're New Here" made with Jamie xx were released on XL Recordings. The label also released new albums by Radiohead, Friendly Fires, and The Horrors and singles by Jai Paul and Portishead, as well as the Adele Blu-ray/DVD, Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
On 24 April 2012, XL released Blunderbuss, the debut solo record by Jack White. It entered the UK album charts at number one, displacing 21 by Adele. In 2012, XL Recordings was named 'Label of the Year' at the Music Week Awards in London. XL also won awards for 'Best A&R' and 'Best Artist Campaign'. Label head, Richard Russell, became the youngest ever recipient of the lifetime achievement 'Strat Award'.
Sales of Adele's 21 helped increase XL Recordings' bank balance from £3million to £32million in the space of 12 months. As of March 2011, XL Recordings had released three albums that had sold over a million copies in the UK: The Prodigy's The Fat of the Land, Adele's 19, and Adele's 21.
XL's current head of A&R is Imran Ahmed.
In early 2008, Russell transformed the rear garage of the label's Ladbroke Grove headquarters into a small, in-house recording and mixing studio called XL Studio. It served as a makeshift studio space for the label's various artists and his own projects until producer Rodaidh McDonald was assigned in September of that year to manage and properly equip it in preparation for the xx to record their self-titled debut album. According to McDonald, "before Richard brought me in to be Studio Manager, it was just a bit of a free-for-all. Artists could come in and rehearse, demo or write here and things like that ... but it was good idea and we decided we should be stepping it up and making records here." Russell and McDonald were inspired by the success of modest studios such as Hitsville U.S.A. and wanted to create an economic, non-commercial space.
Set up specifically with the xx in mind, XL Studio features little outboard gear and is equipped with a Neotek Élan custom 24-channel mixing console, Yamaha NS10 studio monitors, and instruments that include an upright piano, Roland Juno-60, Moog Prodigy, Vox Continental organ, and Sequential Circuits Pro-One synthesizer. Russell and McDonald augmented the studio to twice its original size after the xx's album, which was done in what became the studio's control room; they incorporated an adjacent office as the studio's live room for musicians.
As of 2016, XL Recordings is home to a range of artists including:
Young Turks roster
Terrible Records roster
HXC Recordings roster
- HXC Recordings
- Terrible Records
- Young Turks Records
- List of record labels
- List of electronic music record labels
- List of independent UK record labels
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