4AD is a record label owned by the UK-based Beggars Group. It was founded in London under the name “Axis” (after the Hendrix album) by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent in 1980 as an imprint of Beggars Banquet Records. The name was changed to “4AD” after the release of the first 4 singles. In late 1980 Watts-Russell and Kent purchased the label off Beggars Banquet to become an independent record label, then in 1981 Kent sold his share to Watts-Russell.
The label gained prominence in the 1980s for releasing albums from alternative rock, post-punk, gothic rock and dream pop artists, such as Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Throwing Muses, and Watts-Russell’s own musical project This Mortal Coil. In 1987, the label scored an international hit with the dance music single “Pump Up the Volume” by the one-off project M/A/R/R/S. 4AD continued to have success in the 1990s and 2000s with releases from The Breeders, Lush, Red House Painters, Camera Obscura, TV on the Radio, St. Vincent, and Bon Iver. The label’s current roster includes acts such as The National, Grimes, Beirut, Daughter, Deerhunter, Big Thief, Purity Ring, and Future Islands.
In 1999, Watts-Russell sold 4AD back to the Beggars Group. The label’s history has been detailed by Martin Aston in the biography Facing The Other Way, released in 2013.