Interview received: January 26 and 29, 2017.
What is your name?
Where are you located?
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel?
Yes, we have all of the above.
Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
We have some releases archived at archive.org and all are listed at http://discogs.com/.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
2003/4. By running a label.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
Hmm, not sure.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
None. We were more influenced by standard labels rather than netlabels.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
Eagerness to release our own and others music, and dissatisfaction with the way some other labels operated.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
Free was a good way to garner interest in the label. We also released physical albums, as we’re a hybrid, not purely a netlabel.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Why did you choose the name you chose?
Boltfish uses half of each founder’s surname. Wil Bolton and Murray Fisher (me).
When did you start your netlabel?
What was the focus of you netlabel?
Were your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
All free releases were creative commons. Others were copyright. The choice was made easy as it befitted the format and cost associated.
What was your relationship to the artists that you release? Did you maintain any contact once you released their work? Did you help promote them outside of their release itself?
Yes. Good relationship with most artists. Maintained contact, met, organized label events and promoted artists where possible, progressing them on to other labels or bigger releases.
How did you decide what artists you want to release? Did you approach them? Did they approach you? Did you have any specific guidelines that you follow? Did you act as a curator or is it all luck of the draw?
Artists approached us with demos. We curated, based on our musical taste within our genre. Sometimes we approached existing artists for new releases, or guest artists for compilations.
How many albums did you release?
50+ (if you include EPs).
Who were some of your most notable artists?
Obfusc, Mint, Cheju, Milieu, Skytree, Sabi, Ochre, Greg Haines (released his first ever release when he used the name Statskartsa).
Which were some of your most significant releases?
Both Obfusc’s albums. Tracks were used for TV, games and sync. ‘Cardboard Rocketships’ by Mint – tracks licensed for compilations, and a very popular Ulrich Schnauss remix on the album.
Did you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes. It was a primary reason for starting the label, so it’s a great practice. Nice to lead the way and experience the process as both label artist and owner.
What did you enjoy about running your netlabel? What did you get out of it?
Learnt a lot, met lots of new friends, helped people’s music develop along with their careers. Played live gigs. Did radio shows and interviews. All sorts.
What were some difficult things about running the label? Or what were some challenges?
Chasing artists can be hard, sometimes. The schedule can be hard (especially when, like us, you initially release something every month).
In terms of managing the workload, what did you find worked best for maintaining your one release a month schedule?
Thinking back, it’s hard to recall how we kept up the relentless pace of that, but ultimately we had 3/4 releases arranged at the beginning of the year, and then kept ahead of things that way, putting in time each month to prepare artwork, maintain the website, hassle artists to deliver, and consider what format (EP, Split EP, Album etc) to use for each artist.
Was anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Getting reviewers to write reviews was sometimes frustrating.
How much time did you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
We’re on hiatus now, but we used to put in a day or two a week.
Are both physical and netlabels on hiatus? Why and when did you decide to go on hiatus?
Yep. Both of us have very busy lives, and our musical tastes have changed, so we’ve put everything on hiatus for both of those reasons, but left it all online as a resource/archive of our own – so all our social media and main website (www.boltfish.co.uk) are frozen in time.
Can you describe all the work that you did on a regular basis in order to run your label?
Between both of us – Designing cover artwork, maintaining and designing website, mastering some tracks, preparing press releases, contacting reviewers, listening to demos, managing digital files and conversions, mailing fans, marketing the label, and plenty more.
How did you divide the responsibilities between the two of you? Did each of you have specific tasks? Or did you both do a bit of everything?
Yes, we had specific tasks, although there was some crossover. Crucially, we would have regular meetings to reappraise what we were doing and review schedules. I created most of the artwork and maintained the website. Wil did the initial A&R, press releases and managed relationships with reviewers and shops. Then we’d set aside time together to give Wil’s demo shortlist a listen and choose new artists. I managed events too, as and when they happened.
Where did you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Combination, and more.
Besides your website, FMA and IA, where else did you share your releases?
Anywhere we could! Soundcloud, Mixcloud, whatever was suitable really, but bear in mind that in our early days social media was mostly just MySpace and not much else! We did some guest mixes and showcases on radio stations too.
What did you do to promote your label?
Social media, magazines, reviews, radio coverage, etc.
Did you send releases out for review? If yes, was it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or were there non-traditional methods?
Yes, mostly via blogs and review sites, but very occasionally in magazines too.
How much success did you have in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
Good success. Generally 3-6 reviews of each release, but when it drops off, it’s hard to get back, and many blogs/sites close down. It’s hard to keep up with.
Did you have any success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
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, which is why we also released physical releases. They’re the ones that got attention. There are too many free releases out there for media to care about them.
Was the lack of a physical object a problem for any of the artists that you worked with?
No, because they also had the option of a physical release for more fully fledged work.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums did you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
Yes, we did. In the UK and abroad, either label events, or artists performing at events and festivals – individually or as a group.
What kind of label events did you organize?
Launch parties for compilation releases and solo albums (in places like Bristol and London) where artists and DJs played live sets. London included Shoreditch and Camden. Plus, as an aside I ran a monthly night called Glitchnight, which wasn’t affiliated directly with the label, but naturally dragged in our artists to play.
How did you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
We had a strict policy to never spend our own money, apart from the initial website hosting cost. Then physical releases and sales all funded the running and production costs.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
Bandcamp is good, although we don’t sell a lot through it.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
They are, but only if you have the passion to do it, as there’s no money in it!
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
Nope, and nope.
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?
Sometimes an overlap. It’s all artistic creativity.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
Yes, there is, but not a very complete one on Wikipedia.
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
Just that netlabels don’t have to exist solo – we showed that a hybrid was possible, and that you can cover free and paid for releases with equal professionalism. Ultimately the format doesn’t matter, it’s about getting the music out there in the best way possible, to the widest audience.