Record Labels and the Success of Techno: Transmat

Alex Calhoun —  October 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

MetroplexThe growth and overall success of Techno in the 1980’s was partially fueled by its success in Europe as well as some exposure from major labels (think “Clear” by Cybotron), but also due to some amazing and energetic independent labels in the city of Detroit. Each of these labels was storied, and have been the building blocks for exposing some of Detroit’s greatest electronic musicians. Transmat, a label started by Derrick May, has been one of the longest running of these independent labels.

Transmat sprang up in 1986 in Detroit’s legendary Techno Boulevard alongside Metroplex and KMS.  It was started by Derrick May who at the time was one of the pioneering producers of Detroit Techno. Many of Mays early tracks under the moniker Rhythm is Rhythm, like “Nude Photo” and “Strings of Life”, were released on Transmat. The label also released early tracks by now legendary Detroit artists like Suburban Knight, Octave One, and Reese (Kevin Saunderson).

Some of the early Detroit Labels faded out after a few key releases, while others slowed their output to a point where their presence seems only for nostalgia. Not following this trend, Transmat continues to release genuine, well produced techno and lend the label name to an occasional event in Detroit and beyond. Releases by Greg Gow, DVS1, Aril Brikha have helped bridge Transmat into the modern era of Techno and keep its place as one of the great labels in electronic music.

It’s really an awesome thing to see an independent Techno label that has been running as long as Transmat. Labels like this only exist because of the dedication and love for music put into them by the people who run them, and their DIY ethos that keeps them doing what they love.  Check out the Transmat website to see the latest on the label and its artists.

Alex Calhoun


Alex Calhoun is a writer, vinyl collector, and lover of all things odd and electronic. He currently lives in the Detroit Metro area.
October 2013
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