NorthSide and ESD are record labels started and curated by Rob Simonds. Its origins date back to 1981, when Simonds started East Side as a record wholesaler, importing vinyl from Japan (East ->Japan, Side ->vinyl... get it?). In 1982, the compact disc was introduced in both Japan and Europe, which appealed to the same "audiophile" demographic as high-quality vinyl pressings, so East Side expanded to included wholesale CD imports.
In 1984, Simonds started Rykodisc (the world's first CD-only label) with his brother-in-law Don Rose and two other partners. Within a few years Ryko had become one of the leading independent record labels in the U.S. thanks to licensing deals with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Elvis Costello. When it became too big to release some of Simonds favorite albums, he started the East Side Digital (ESD) label.
By the early 90's CDs were continuing to explode, and Simonds was busy building Ryko's U.S. national distribution company. Steve Daly was brought in to run ESD, and he expanded the repertoire to include Americana and a wider range of musical styles. By the mid-90's Simonds was ready to leave Ryko and focus on his favorite music again. It was around this time that he discovered the roots music explosion happening in the Nordic countries.
In 1996 Simonds started NorthSide, a label imprint to bring Nordic roots music to North American audiences. Two of its first six releases were by the Swedish folk trio/quartet Väsen.
By the mid-2000's NorthSide had released about 90 titles, mostly through licensing deals from Scandinavian labels. But CDs were being eclipsed by downloads and streaming, which rendered such licensing deals obsolete. So both ESD and NorthSide dramatically cut back, with only the local Twin Cities band Halloween, Alaska's titles still being offered on ESD, and mostly Väsen remaining on the NorthSide roster.