Innova Recordings’ story begins in 1982, when it was founded by the Minnesota Composers Forum (now the American Composers Forum) as a way to document the McKnight Composer Fellowship winners. In its early years, innova produced several sampler LPs featuring the works of a range of Minnesota composers, many of whom have since achieved national prominence, including Eric Stokes, Libby Larsen, Paul Schoenfield, Steve Tibbetts, and Steven Paulus. With the advent of the compact disc, innova began releasing selected highlights from the top ensembles (the Dale Warland Singers, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Alexander String Quartet, and others) that had been on the Composers Forum concert seasons.
Over its first ten years, innova built up a broad distribution network, far beyond the Forum’s own membership circles, and in 1994, the label — always looking for ways to be of service to the new music community — opened its doors to artists who had their own finished masters and were looking for a helping hand in reaching a wider audience. Thus was born the Recording Assistance Program, an exceptionally artist-friendly business model that has allowed the label to grow to one of the most substantial in the nation. In recognition of the career benefits innova can bestow on its artists, the McKnight Foundation endowed it with a $1 million fund in 2002. Interest from that allows the label to keep costs relatively low to artists (who also keep 100% of sales income) and subsidize administrative costs so each title can receive greater bang for the buck.
Innova albums and artists have been nominated for - and won - Pulitzers, Grammies, and Emmies. They have received plaudits from publications from the New York Times to Czech Republic’s His Voice magazine, from the Wire in London to the Los Angeles Times, Italy’s Kathodik and everywhere in between.
Major grants over the years from the National Endowment for the Arts (2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010) and the New York State Music Fund (2007) have boosted the label’s growth, reputation, and visibility. In 2009 innova partnered with Naxos USA distribution to expand its reach even further and is constantly adapting to changing needs and embracing new technologies. Philip Blackburn took over the running of the label from Homer Lambrecht in 1996 and has been joined by Chris Campbell (2003) as Operations Manager, and Publicist, Steve McPherson (2010).
In 2012 innova was awarded the prestigious Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance "for its excellent support of the full range of contemporary American music."