Ultimately, the point of a record label is to share exciting new music with the world. Yet few record labels have taken that purpose and turned it into a culture-transforming philosophy like Rough Trade.

Getting fresh, new sounds to listeners was the clear impetus behind the label’s first incarnation as a record shop which opened its doors in London in 1976. With an unrivalled selection of alternative music for sale and inspired by City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which encouraged customers to hang out as much as they did to buy, it was not long before the unique culture that formed around the Ladbroke Grove store drove Rough Trade’s founder Geoff Travis to no longer wait for other people to sign his favourite artists and instead release himself.

At the forefront of musical innovation – often inspiring its own future signings by getting exciting music into the ears of people who would go on to make their own – since 1978 Rough Trade has constantly been at the creative vanguard.

Still run by Travis, in partnership since the 1980s with Jeannette Lee – herself an artist, she has ensured creativity and forward-thinking has been at the heart of the label’s outlook – though an independent, Rough Trade has been responsible for releasing a host of albums that have truly changed the world.

A home as much to Augustus Pablo as The Smiths, Robert Wyatt and The Raincoats, while overseeing the era-defining debuts of Scritti Politti, The Libertines, Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes and The Strokes, Rough Trade’s track record is remarkable.

More impressive than this artistic breadth and innovation though, is the fact that as it enters its fourth decade the label’s focus remains on forging the future. ANOHNI, Sleaford Mods, This Is The Kit, black midi, Amyl & The Sniffers, Dean Blunt, Goat Girl, Parquet Courts, Lankum and Jarvis Cocker represent just a small selection of the artists currently creating exciting new music with Rough Trade.

Meanwhile demonstrating this continuing desire to embrace and nurture new sounds, sonic rule-breakers Jockstrap released their debut album with Rough Trade, while since 2017 its sub-label River Lea has focused on more folk-infused artists. Following early signing Lisa O’Neill – who now releases on Rough Trade itself – its artists include John Francis Flynn and Ye Vagabonds who are making records that sit at the vanguard of this ever-evolving genre.

“The music has always been our priority,” explains Jeannette and Geoff. “The most exciting record is always the one you’re about to work on with an artist, because until the recording process is finished, it really can really be anything. To be able to help bring something totally brand new into existence, to turn someone’s artistic vision into something tangible, is what a record label is all about.”