I've just come across a story at cnn.com about Numero, a label that is trying to rescue worthy music from obscurity. Here's a bit:
[Ken] Shipley, a former A&R manager for funky-artsy (David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Bootsy Collins) label Rykodisc, is digging.
There are hundreds of records out there -- old singles and albums -- that have never gotten the proper attention, he believes. He's trying to give them an outlet.
He and his business partner, Tom Lunt, started Numero with that intent. So far, the company has released three CDs: "Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label," a compilation of soul music from a Columbus, Ohio, record company; "Camino Del Sol" by Antena, a reissue of a 1982 LP by an obscure French group; and "Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label," a compilation of songs -- some of which were remastered from battered 45s and cassettes about to go to the city dump -- from a South Side Chicago label run out of what the liner notes call "a musical commune."
...Numero isn't the only one. Other small reissue labels, noting the majors' lack of interest in semi-obscure artists, have marched into the breach.
"The majors can't be bothered with that [kind of material]," Gordon Anderson, senior vice-president and general manager of Collectors' Choice Music, told The Hollywood Reporter.
CCM has reissued records by Terry Melcher, Sonny Bono and Andrew Gold. "That means there's a lot of catalog out there to be leveraged." Indeed, though the majors have long dominated pop music, there used to be plenty of room for small independents and offbeat releases.
In the '50s and '60s, when pop music was a singles medium dominated by Top Forty radio stations, local disc jockeys would occasionally take chances with regional artists signed to small labels.... Sometimes those disc jockeys could create a national hit. In 1966, a DJ in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, discovered a copy of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Hanky Panky" -- which the band had recorded three years earlier for a tiny Michigan label -- in a used-record bin and started playing it.
The ensuing frenzy prompted James to form a new Shondells, since his original band had broken up. Meanwhile, the rights to the recording were purchased by the much larger Roulette Records, and eventually the once-forgotten song hit No. 1.
It goes on to talk about various regional labels from the old days and how rescuing forgotten but good music is terrific karmically. I can go along with that.