An astute film music fan who still buys physical CDs will undoubtedly notice a rather finite set of labels on their shelves. Film music is a niche market and only certain record companies have mastered it, to a point where knowing more about the label itself could instruct a consumer about prospective purchases.
There are two great types of releases: private and commercial. Some actually delve in both, but usually a company will specialize in one.
Private releases are almost always limited printings (from 500 to 5000 units) and feature film scores from an earlier era (either a score that was never printed at the time of the movie’s release, or an expanded re-release of a previously incomplete pressing). They can only be ordered at specialized online retailers and usually sell for $20. They feature lovingly crafted inserts, with several pages of pictures and liner notes.
The history of private releases began in the late 80s when Varèse Sarabande (already an established commercial soundtrack label) came out with the “Varèse CD Club”, a mail-only collection of limited edition soundtracks. Experts agree: it was ahead of its time. Ten years later, with the advent of the Internet and social media networks, things were different. Labels like Film Score Monthly and Prometheus began spewing private releases. Even Varèse started a new “Varèse CD Club”, this time enjoying a much greater success. This craze of private releases is even what saved Intrada, whose commercial releases were becoming very few and far between. In fact, the Intrada Special Collection tackled the market with such aggressiveness that they eventually took Film Score Monthly out of the running. New players still active today also joined the fray. The following is a description of each label.