4AD is a British independent record label that was started in 1979 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, originally funded by Beggars Banquet Records.
The current roster includes Ariel Pink, Atlas Sound, bEEdEEgEE, Bon Iver, Camera Obscura, Daughter, Deerhunter, Efterklang, Future Islands, Gang Gang Dance, Grimes, Indians, Iron & Wine, Lo-Fang, Merchandise, The National, Purity Ring, Scott Walker, SOHN, Twin Shadow, and Tune-Yards.
4AD forms part of the Beggars Group, along with Matador Records, Rough Trade Records and XL Recordings. Its rich history has recently been detailed by Martin Aston in his biography of the label, 'Facing The Other Way', released 2013.
Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, employees of the Beggars Banquet record store and label, founded Axis Records in late 1979 as a property of Beggars Banquet that was run by the two. After the first four Axis singles in early 1980, the name was changed to 4AD when it became apparent that the name Axis was already being used by another music company. The solution to this problem came from a promotional flyer that they had printed up to call attention to the new releases. The flyer's designer had added some typography that played on both the new year and the idea of progress: 1980 FORWARD - 1980 FWD - 1984 AD - 4AD
Watts-Russell invited the graphic designer Vaughan Oliver to create sleeve art for the label, and as a result, 4AD quickly acquired a visually distinctive identity.
In the 1990s, 4AD established an office in Los Angeles and enjoyed success with bands such as The Breeders, Red House Painters, Unrest, and His Name Is Alive. In 1999, Watts-Russell sold his share in 4AD back to the Beggars Group (as it had by then become), but the label continued to release music and add new artists to its roster.
Simon Halliday took control of the label at the end of 2007, leading a new era for 4AD. Notable immediate successes were Bon Iver's critically lauded debut For Emma, Forever Ago (CAD 2809) and Dear Science by Brooklyn's TV On The Radio (CAD 2821). In 2008, the Beggars Group recognised that 4AD was its most prestigious and successful label, and re-aligned itself so that several labels (including Beggars Banquet itself) were folded up on to the 4AD label.
In 2010, indie institution 4AD Records celebrated its 30th year. Actually, it didn't celebrate it at all. Whilst their cousins at Matador threw themselves a rowdy 21st Birthday Bash in Las Vegas, 4AD took the dignified-elder-statesman approach, with no outward recognition of their three-decade anniversary. Across those 30 years, 4AD have been perhaps the definitive indie record label; uncorking countless classics and a singular design aesthetic in the '80s, then reinventing themselves as a genuine powerbroker in the '00s. If they won't celebrate their birthday, we will: here's the 30 best albums from 4AD's first 30 years.