Interview received: November 11 and December 19, 2016; April 17, 2017.
What is your name?
José María Padilla
Where are you located?
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
Yes, all netlabel and show info I try to collect and store.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
A netlabel is a record label that release music or audio on digital audio formats with a consistent tone.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
8bit Peoples, Pause Music, Ubiktune.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
There were no chipmusic netlabels in Spanish or showcasing chipmusic made in Latin America.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
Usually, chipmusic albums are released for free (going along with the hacker ethos), also not having the time or money to produce or store hundreds or thousands of physical media releases.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Why did you choose the name you chose?
Made it clear that the label was something lo-fi that belonged in the internet.
When did you start your netlabel?
What is the focus of you netlabel?
Chipmusic made in Latin America.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
CC or full copyright, depending on the artists wishes. We used creative commons to encourage sharing of independent music and making a statement about the nature of information,
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?
We built some lasting relationships with some of the artists and some we only release and never hear from them again. We sometimes promote their music outside of our release schedule, even if it is in another label.
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?
We do both, we reach out to artists and some reach out to us (usually the latter). The main guidelines are: where are they from and the quality of the music. I’m the main curator but I ask other members for their opinions.
What are or were your criteria for the music you curate and release?
Mainly the polish and quality of the ideas of the artists, with the production values taking second place.
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
Free Jazz and electro-acoustic music.
Are there any artists that you have yet to release that you would like to work with? Or that you always wished you had been able to work with?
Many people to count, and in many cases we had a chance to collaborate.
You say there are other members of 56kbps, how many others are there?
There’s two more members, they also make chipmusic: Atoms or Faeries and Nagareboshi. They are not active all year but they are part of the team indefinitely.
What work do the other members do and how do you divide up their responsibilities?
Chema64: Update website, answer to demo submissions, update social media accounts, design album art and promo materials.
AoF: Master files, record live events, helps curating new albums, helps with audio related technical stuff.
Nagareboshi: uploads music to Youtube and other sites, stays in touch with the local chipmusic scene IRL and on Facebook groups and forums, helps curating new albums.
How many albums have you released?
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Crab Sound, PopcornKid!, 4 For Fake.
Which are some of your most significant releases?
Chipotle, Chido-Chip, Format.DF Vol I, all available in https://chipotle.bandcamp.com/.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes, being that this is the only netlabel from this part of the world, it would be a hindrance for me releasing music elsewhere, but I’ve released in other labels nonetheless.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
It has helped us (artists and managers) to establish a fan base and develop live events and release many physical albums. It’s also an output for my experimental graphic design work.
Do you design all of the artwork for the releases yourself or do the artists provide you with art as well?
Artists usually provide their own artwork but we replace it with a better quality image if we deem it appropriate (Mainly in the quality of the image, not the content).
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
It’s mostly a one man job with no pay, you have to compromise your creative vision when things are slow, you sort through a lot of lazy albums and songs and you have to tell people that you are not interested and they take it personal and badmouth you on any occasion they get.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Artists expecting that you do everything for them: album art, ads, promo, etc, And those albums don’t get much attention. Some artists accuse you for being “in the spotlight” because you decided to create something that got moderately famous.
What keeps you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are feeling frustrated?
Love for the scene, keeping the D.I.Y. spirit alive and meeting awesome people.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
10 hours a month.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
Responding to demo submissions, negotiating licensing options, making album art, fact-checking all the release details, updating the website, making all the pre-release promotional graphics, making all the promotional graphics and social media posts, submitting music to iTunes, Spotify, et-al. Designing and sending newsletters.
In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?
Why did you choose that format?
It’s the most compact and supported in virtually any device.
Do you zip your files into a package? Or are/were the albums uploaded as individual files?
We use ZIP files.
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
We used to include a brief text document with info about the release.
What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
Audio processing and metadata management: Adobe Audition, SoundBooth.
Image processing: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP.
Office suite: LibreOffice.
Web design: Sublime Text, Brackets, WordPress.
How many submissions do you get every month? I’m curious because I only get a few every year.
About 7 submissions every year by strangers. Almost all albums we release now are from people we already know IRL.
Out of curiosity, have you released any albums by women? Are there many women who are active in the chiptune scene in general, and specifically in Mexico?
No, we don’t have any albums by women, there was at least two music projects by women in Mexico, but they quit chiptune or music making all-together after a short while, they were not even a year active on the scene.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Bandcamp and Internet Archive.
What do you do to promote your label?
Making pre-release and launch day posts on the Facebook page, niche Facebook Groups, Reddit posts, Twitter mentions, Instagram photos, sometimes Facebook Ads, making new threads on niche sites and forums. Send a newsletter to our mailing list, and sometimes we do release parties IRL.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
Yes we send releases of review on niche sites, depending on the album.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
Depending on the quality of the album, some get blog and web reviews or mentions without our direct involvement.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Yes, some of our artists are known worldwide, at least with the niche genre crowd.
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years?
They have dwindled a little over the years, mainly because of market saturation.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
Reaching a milestone in downloads or purchases (for both the artist and label) is our KPI of an album success.
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?
Yes, people are not accustomed to pay for music in an intangible way, at least in Mexico. Traditional media in Mexico will not pay attention unless you release a novelty item or you know “the right people.”
Has the lack of a physical object been a problem for any of the artists that you have worked with? If it has how have you responded?
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
Yes, the biggest chipmusic show in Latin America and some bimonthly shows.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
I put every penny the netlabel makes back into it. I don’t take money for my work except for extreme circumstances.
What do you think is your label’s legacy might be?
Being the most influential label and promoter in this particular genre in Mexico and many other latin american countries.
Do you feel that you are or were filling a niche that other labels were not?
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
It’s the best platform for independent artists and labels that care about releasing albums (and not singles for example).
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Yes, they are sustainable in some cases. I think we will see fewer netlabels in the future, in favor of independent artists and collectives that do all the functions of a netlabel without being an official label.
Are there too many netlabels?
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
They will keep evolving with the internet.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
We have some philosophical positions about music and art but we do not make overtly political statements in any way.
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?
In my particular case, my desire to make a netlabel was also rooted in cassette trading and mail art. I think podcasts and netlabels are not necessarily related, I’d rather listen to an album myself than listen to someone talking about it.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?