20kbps

Interview received: October 25, 2018.

What is your name?

Mathias Aeschlimann.

Where are you located?

Glattpark, Switzerland. It’s next to Zurich.

Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?

The releases themselves are saved on a private server as well as on archive.org. As far reviews, forum discussions, artists correspondence, etc. I’m trying to save them but my ADHD makes this somewhat a challenge.

How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?

10 years ago this was an easy question. Now with all the streaming services and the hegemony of sites like beatport and Bandcamp, etc., and social media as a major target for PR I feel like all labels have become netlabels, at least to a certain degree.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

I think it was through the scene (the legal offspring of the 80ies warez and cracktro network, see scene.org). The first netlabels I knew where releasing in tracker formats (MODs) and were just starting the transitioning process to MP3.

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

Can’t really remember, Thinner, Mono, Fals.ch were among the earliest.

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

I needed more space on my hard drive for pirate mp3 releases because I was short of money, I started to encode my own productions at a low bitrate to save space. Then I had the brilliant idea to move them to the internet and call it a netlabel, so I had even more free space.

What were your reasons for choosing to release music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?

Back in 2002 there were no easy pay solutions.

What is the name of your netlabel?

20kbps.

Why did you choose the name you chose?

The name is the concept.

When did you start your netlabel?

27 December 2002.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

The only focus is lobit, that is music encoded in a low bit rate.

Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?

Differs from release to release. As I’m skeptical of Intellectual Property as a legit concept, I don’t take much care in decisions relating to this matter unless the artists insists on a certain license.

What is your relationship to the artists that you release? Do you maintain any contact once you’ve released their work? Do you help promote them outside of their release itself?

I have released about 200 artists, I maintain contact only with a few of them. I almost never help them promote.

How do you decide what artists you want to release? Do you approach them? Do they approach you? Do you have any specific guidelines that you follow? Do you act as a curator or is it all luck of the draw?

In the distant past, I have approached a handful of artists, but typically they approach me. No guidelines, full anarchy.

How many albums have you released?

I don’t know about albums, but the total count of releases is between 300 and 400.

Who are some of your most notable artists?

Hard to tell. The hardliner, Goto80, k9d, overthruster, c4 (adam crammond), origami repetika, atarix, astral vomit, jimmy slaughter (of daftN0!ze), vziel from genetic trance, hertzcanary, jkp, toxic chicken, workaholic, Sascha Müller, McFiredrill, Razxca, carfil, CopyrightKiller, Baron Knoxburry, just to mention a few.

Which are some of your most significant releases?

Celtic Rhythm – Min.Cutz (20k185) 2005
true type – luv thru the wind .sampler (20k135) 2005
Adolf Neger – Rettet Die Welt (20k033) 2003
Pharmacom – Switched On Game Boy (20k186) 2005
Various ‎– Bring`Em Low (20k300) 2010

Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?

I did in the past. It’s fine.

What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?

Takes time.

In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?

Mostly mp3, some ogg’s, and I think there is at least one ac3 release. Bitrates are 0 to max 128, but usually under 64.

Do you zip your files into a package? Or are the albums uploaded as individual files?

Yes. But now also individual files.

Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?

Cover images. Sometimes text.

Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?

Private hosting and archive.org. Some releases are also on sonicsquirrel.

What do you do to promote your label?

Nothing really except tweet.

How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?

Not at all.

Do you feel that the lack of a physical object – vinyl, cassette, eight track, etc. – is a hindrance to building an audience? To getting any media to pay attention? If yes, why do you think that is the case?

Certainly not in 2018.

How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?

I have nothing to finance.

What do you think your legacy might be?

20kbps was the first lobit netlabel as well as the first Swiss netlabel. It had some minor impact in the chiptune and gameboy scene and somewhat influential in eastern Europe, especially Russia and Ukraine and other countries where high speed internet wasn’t the norm.

Do you feel that you are filling a niche that other labels were not?

I was creating a niche.

What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?

They’re great but I don’t think I have an account.

Are there too many netlabels?

How can there be too many as it’s so easy to ignore them?

Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?

Without disrespect, in a way they are already obsolete now, at least those like 20kbps still running in the traditional mode. But then again there’s legit nostalgia so I hope they stay around.

Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?

I try not to associate the label with any political stance in order to appeal to a broad audience and to avoid hijacking artists against their will. Of course there are issues that go straight to the core of running a netlabel like artistic freedom, freedom of expression, free speech, here I take strong view in favor of these natural or human rights. Also, the accelerating rate of censoring, policing and legislating the internet by Western governments lobbied by big tech companies are worrisome to every netlabel with integrity. But whether this is politics or simply common sense is another question.

How do you feel that netlabels as a phenomenon overlap with any other artist practices – cassette trading, mail art, etc? Is there any overlap with podcasts, podfiction/netfiction, or any other art that is distributed for free?

That’s a really great question that I’d like to know myself more about it.

Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?

Only of the netlabels in my vicinity.