Unlike heavy metal, punk is devoid of any mystique. With punk rock, what you see is what you get: the musicians on stage have traditionally been the same people after the show ends and the venue doors have closed. Thus, iconic punk and hardcore bands have had a very direct influence on the direction of the genre. And like a worn, handmade heirloom, punk rock has been passed on from one generation to the next, changing shape with each new iteration.
Of course, the bands didn’t build such a legacy entirely by themselves. Along the way, great record labels have been there to guide and promote these (frankly, often unruly) artists. To understand how and why punk became the striking mosaic it is today, perhaps it’s best to take a look at some of the cornerstone punk labels that changed the genre forever.
Here are 11 of the most important labels to do so in punk rock’s birthplace, the United States.