Audiotalaia

Interview received: November 7 and 8, 2016; March 30 and April 3, 2017.

What is your name?

Edu Comelles.

Where are you located?

Valencia, Spain.

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

Yes of course, at archive.org, Bandcamp, Mixcloud and a dedicated hard drive.

Do you keep copies of your emails with artists and other netlabel business? or copies of promotional work you have done for your label and shows? i’m curious about this because i am an archivist for my day job and i think i do a lot of things that others normally don’t. like keep copies of emails with artists, etc.

They are stored on my gmail account. I guess that if I look for specific conversation I could recover some of them. I am a very bad archivist myself so I always rely on search engines.

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

A label that operates primarily on the internet.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

In 2006 from friends, the Netaudio scene in Spain was about to reach is peak.

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

Inoquo from Barcelona run by my dear friend Jaume Muntsant.

What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?

Resting Bell and Test Tube Netlabels, among others. I was addicted (and still I am) to their catalogue.

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

I needed to find a way to disseminate my own personal work and to host the outcome of a project called Talaies Sonores. The project dealt with alternative ways of distributing and presenting experimental music.

What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?

First of all because of coherence. Doing experimental music I cannot think of a better way to present my work that by releasing under Creative Commons licenses. To put copyright to stuff like free improvisation, soundscapism and certain parcels of electronic music makes no sense to me.

On top of that: It was doable, affordable and easy to set up. If mass produce vinyls were that easy I would.

What is the name of your netlabel?

Audiotalaia.

Why did you choose the name you chose?

Talaia is defensive position on top of a hill somewhere to oversee a bast piece of land. Audiotalaia’s philosophy is to oversee and detect new music around me. Audio, you know what it means 🙂

When did you start your netlabel?

In 2007.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

Experimental music, sound art, ambient, field recordings mainly, but we also release tons of other musics, generally weird music.

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

Yes they are under Creative Commons. Because I believe in free and sharing culture and because the kind of music we work with doesn’t goes well with a capitalist and trade market scheme. Also the idea of authorship and copyright over works that cannot be copyrighted because of it nature, makes no sense to me. Needless to say that living in this digital era we live in and to still sustain a market structure that has to do with physical goods its utterly absurd and it doesn’t serves culture or artists.

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?

It depends on the relationship with the artists, the amount of time I can dedicate to it and the general need to that.

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 only publish under demand, almost never accept demos. We try to work hand by hand with the artists, suggesting, producing and even sometimes editing the work. If we are going to make an effort promoting and releasing an album we want to be 100% sure its worth it. We try to dedicate as much time and energy as possible to promote and support the artists.

What are or were your criteria for the music you curate and release?

I have to like it, find it interesting or challenging. If neither of the three apply most likely I won’t be interested.

Are there any genres that have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label?

Genres that haven’t been invented yet.

How many albums have you released?

So far 83 digital releases, a ton of live recordings, interviews and podcasts and a handful of physical limited editions.

Who are some of your most notable artists?

They are all unique artists, can’t list them. What is really notable is to have them in our catalogue, beyond notable, is an honor.

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?

Tons of them, its is something unattainable.

Which are some of your most significant releases?

I could answer using statistics of downloads and page views but I am completely uncertain about trusting this kind of material. Still you can go to our archive.org and search for the most downloaded items.

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

Yes, not lately but most of my work has been released on netlabels. I think this is an amazing practice, and awesome environment to release your work. You have to find your own way around it and identify those labels that are working on a professional label. Those are the netlabels that interest me: those capable of working with you in a profesional environment taking things very seriously, otherwise to release on a netlabel might be a waste of time.

What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?

My favorite part is to work with the artists. To be able to participate on the production of the works released. Sometimes I had the opportunity of editing some of the albums and this is just great, I think the work of a netlabel editor has to be to (to some extend) curate the work received. That’s for me the best.

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

The difficult side is always how to balance a non-profit activity with your profit activity, that’s the most difficult part. If you find a balance between the two, then it al works great. As soon as your profitable work interferes with your non-profitable you’ll have to adjust time and dedication.

Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?

As with all things in live there are ups and downs but probably the most frustrating thing over the years its been to see so many netlabels disappear, at least in Spain.

What keeps or you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are feeling frustrated?

Work done so far.

Why do you think so many netlabels have been disappearing in spain and possibly elsewhere?

I am guessing here, but most of the label-runners got tired of working “for free” and focused on profitable jobs. I am guessing that most of them never considered this as a job or as something you can make a career out of it, which partially, its true. We should analyze case by case, too much wild guessing, and I don’t wanna put the blame on all those friends that shut down their labels! Not at all. Commitment starts and ends with yourself, circumstances, environment, social and political instability, that all counts. Its a very fragile environment. Without a cushion that maintains things alive, nothing lasts forever.

How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?

As years go by less and less, as you can see, now a days, the activity on the label is focused only on live recordings and podcasts. I had to stop the monthly edition of works due to the massive amount of “profitable work”. Now a days I dedicate maybe 1-2 per week. Between 2012 and 2014 I was dedicating probably 10 hours per week.

Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?

There is a lot of work: Managing the website, answering emails, preparing and editing covers, design etc. Managing social networks, answering more emails, etc, etc, etc…. It all depends on your grade of commitment.

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

MP3 / WAV / AIFF 44 kHz / 16 Bits

Why did you choose that format?

Common standard format.

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

Both, I rely mostly on Archive.org.

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

Yes, depending on the release, videos, images, pdfs etc.

What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.

Audacity, and XLD.

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 I try.

How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?

I try my best. 🙂

Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?

I don’t know for sure. But judging by the views and downloads there is a more or less stable audience expecting releases from Audiotalaia.

Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have/did they changed over the years?

More or less. The tendency is towards less download and more streaming.

Do you stream music directly from Audiotalaia’s website, or does the streaming happen on archive.org? Do you keep track of the number of times an album is streamed?

From archive.org. And no, I don’t keep track of the number of streams.

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

Without a thorough analysis it is difficult to know.

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?

No I don’t agree with that, music should stand by itself regardless of the format. Formats, packaging, physical editions, beyond what can be done with it – creatively speaking – has nothing to do with the music itself. Another thing is how the market, the media and the general public establish patterns of quality based on the format, and therefor the way music arribes to the audience. In that case yes: if you release something in vinyl is going to drag more interest everywhere regardless if what’s on the vinyl is crap compared to what you released one year before digitally on a netlabel.

At the end of the day, what really matters is what people feel and experience while listening to your music. If it moves them it doesn’t matter if it comes in vinyl or a shitty homemade cassette.

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?

Yes it happens, there are artist that want only physical edition, we do that also, but we do it very exceptionally.

In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?

Yes, now the main focus of what is left of the Netlabel in Audiotalaia is totally tided to my work as curator in Valencia. All material released under creative commons licenses comes from recordings of concerts, interviews and online radio shows dedicated to other musicians and artists I invite to play live in Valencia.

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

Through curatorial work, as said before now a days, what we release online is tided to my labour as a curator. What I have been doing online for many years, now I do it “in the real world” organizing gigs and releasing online the trace of this activity. That’s a way out to the problem of the future of netabels. We also make homemade microphones on demand which helps to keep going.

What do you think your label’s legacy might be?

Its catalogue and what it meant for the people that released and the people who listened.

Do you feel that you arefilling a niche that other labels are not?

Unsure about that on a global term, form a local point of view yes.

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

Great! They are awesome platforms offering a good service for a more or less fair price.

Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?

The sustainability of netlabels it only depends on you assuming that you won’t earn money directly, and be fine with it. Many netlabels closed blaming the impossibility of make it sustainable. I never understood that way of thinking. Anyone starting a netlabel SHOULD KNOW its non-profit, that, for me is “Netlabels 101”.

What you can do to make it sustainable is to earn money for related activities. In my case what I do as a curator in Valencia is exactly the same I have been doing for years with the netlabel: curate works of experimental music, promoting it and somehow producing it. That is a way. There might be more.

Are there too many netlabels?

Possibly yes.

Why do you say that?

Because I can’t remember the name of any. 

Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?

They are already obsolete.

Why do you feel netlabels are already obsolete?

Its seriousness has been perverted. It is very difficult to find serious netlabels that operate as traditional labels; not economically but as a workflow. So, traditional labels operate by assuming the dynamics of netlabels – erasing the need for the netlabel philosophy. Both are doomed, it is going to be difficult in the future sustain the idea of a record or an album.

If you pay attention to how younger generations listen to music, you’ll see that the idea of a stream (as a never-ending flow of music) makes more sense than to encapsulate 10 tracks on a record. It all might tend to certain platforms or persons, or influencers that will select the kind of music you like, and hand it to you. Labels might become some sort of “selectors” or filters of your interests.

The question is not if they are obsolete or not, the question is what to do next. And I don’t have the solution for that. For now, on the experimental “scene” I would pay attention to projects such as Eeilean Records. That’s the kind of project that will survive. The idea of a netlabel “releasing” mp3s every two weeks is already obsolete. As an author it makes more sense to update your soundcloud or mixcloud rather than handing in a “record” for one of those netlabels.

That’s why Audiotalaia doesn’t release free downloads anymore. We do other things, we make very limited editions (physical) and we “curate” concerts, live recordings and maintain a podcast.

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

To have a netlabel is already a political act and a statement. I am from Spain a country that suffers constantly the harassment of Copyright agencies such as SGAE. So to keep alive a netlabel and releasing works under creative commons is already a political act. Even that it seems that the copyleft and CCs culture its not anymore a trend the issues that raised awareness on that in the past are more alive than ever.

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?

I think this is answered before when I explain how I am sustaining the label.

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

This probably is a subject for a large PhD. I think there was a Thesis read in Poland about it a few years back.

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