According to Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot, Touch and Go records, a fixture on the Chicago music scene and one of the big names in independent labels for more than a quarter-century, has announced that it will no longer issue new albums.

As if that blow wasn’t great enough, the company is also closing its distribution division, meaning nearly two dozen other indies like Kill Rock Stars, Drag City, Merge Records and Suicide Squeeze now have no way to distribute their product.

So what? Just get another distribution company, right? That takes time and, as Kot astutely points out, it might be time the other indies don’t have.

“The move could drastically hamper the ability of these labels to get their new releases into retail outlets in a timely manner, and could affect their ability to stay solvent during the current economic downturn.”

For those who don’t parlez econ-speak, that means the other labels now face the very real threat of extinction.

All of this may not sound like a big deal until you take a look at some of the acts nurtured by Touch and Go over the years.

The label’s roster has included names like Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Jesus Lizard, the Mekons, Slint, TV on the Radio, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Calexico, or, as Kot puts it, “A Who’s Who of underground, punk and postpunk of the last three decades.”

It’s unlikely some of them would have found such fertile ground to grow in elsewhere. And that list doesn’t even begin to cover all the bands on the other labels that might suddenly find themselves with no one standing behind them.

This is a truly black day for the independent music scene. Let’s just hope someone steps in to stop a complete collapse.

How about an indie label bailout? Anyone know the phone number of the Treasury Department?

Read Kot’s story, which includes a statement from Touch and Go’s founder Corey Rusk and a complete list of labels distributed by his company, here.