Comfort Stand

Interview received: November 15, 2016 and January 21, 2017.

What is your name?

Otis Fodder.

Where are you located?

Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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

Yes, offline and online.

There are a few releases that have been taken offline by request of the artist. For example, releasing in physical format and not wanting the digital to still be online. Or in one case where the artist was a teacher and had some very old questionable material (profanity of a very profane nature) he did not want his young students to find by searching.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

Newsgroups and Mailing Lists in the late 1990s.

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

Probably Thinner was the first. Hard to say the first, as there were quite a few active before we started in 2003.

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

Can I say the whole early scene?

What were some things that you found inspiring about that whole early netlabel scene?

I’ve always found that the community aspect is inspiring with both physical and netlabels. When it exists. From my own personal experience running and releasing music on several labels, thankfully that was the case. Artists on the same label roster helping one another all come up. The plus side of netlabels is outside of a time investment, it’s cheap on the pocket for everyone.  Sure, anyone can host files solo, but with a label you are actively participating with others in a group.

Plus, any new scene is exciting when it’s still discovering what it is and where it is going.  Personally I feel a bit of a late bloomer coming into Net Labels in 2003 as the scene was around and moving along for a good solid 5 years previous, building up. When I came in with friends in 2003, it seems so removed from today. Antiquated. No Bandcamp or SoundCloud. The Internet Archive was up and hosting a few netlabels. MySpace was just starting and MP3.com had already died a quick death. Some of us were still on newsgroups sharing in alt.binaries and Soulseek was my preferred peer-to-peer client. It was easy to host files on your own site yourself but hosting and bandwidth was capped much more than it is today. Now, what’s it going to be like in 2023?!

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

I had wanted to start a netlabel early on in 2000. In 2003 the opportunity presented itself by way of a mailing list I was on, The Exotica Music Mailing List. I helped to curate our first release, Two Zombies Later. A compilation of artists on the list and the necessity of releasing it in some format gave way to our netlabel. I finally had a release that was worthy of a first release, which was the reason I kept holding back on starting a netlabel as I wanted our first release out of the slot to be a good one.

http://www.comfortstand.com/catalog/001/

http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Various_Artists/Two_Zombies_Later/

https://archive.org/details/csr001

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

No money. I was broke. Plus it was fun to release items for nothing.

What was the name of your netlabel?

Comfort Stand.

Why did you choose the name you chose?

Like a lemonade stand, it was coined by a friend, Ted. Love on a corner. No money.

When did you start your netlabel?

2003. Shutdown in 2006.

What was the focus of your netlabel?

No focus. All genres. There is something good in every genre so why focus on just one.

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

Creative Commons. Chosen as it was the best outlet at the time.

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

I had contact with every artist on the label personally. By email and/or phone and/or in person. Still in touch with almost all artists.

The label generated no income and we sold nothing, as most netlabels. So, artist promotion was handled on the artist side. However, we did promote the netlabel releases and quite a few were reviewed on blogs and in print zines (with a couple of nice magazine articles as well). We had the standard newsletter setup as well.

How did you decide what artists you want to release?

I would say 90% of the artists approached the label via the submissions page. Met a lot of wonderful people.

How many albums did you release?

72 albums, 8 compilations, 16 singles.

Who were some of your most notable artists?

They are all notable.

Which were some of your most significant releases?

Here are releases sorted by view on the Internet Archive,
https://archive.org/details/comfort_stand
Did you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?

I did yes. I think most netlabel owners are artists themselves (or will be one day)!

What did you enjoy about running your netlabel?

Collaborating with friends, new and old.

Made me very happy. Fun project. Labor of love.

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

The time. Very time consuming.

Was anything about it disappointing or frustrating?

Not that I can recall.

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

15-20 hours a week.

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

Correspondence, website, encoding, organization.

Friends helped to with moderating our forum, helping with cover art, and curating releases, http://www.comfortstand.com/about/credits.html

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

Combo.

http://www.comfortstand.com/

https://archive.org/details/comfort_stand

http://freemusicarchive.org/label/Comfort_Stand/

What did you do to promote your label?

While we were active, we had a mailing list and promoted to relevant outlets (radio, web, print).

Did you send releases out for review? If yes, was it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?

It was digital only, no physical mailings. However, some artists did make copies on CDR/CD to mail to radio and print.

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

We had some nice reviews years ago. A couple of magazines (Spin to GQ for example) and a good amount on blogs and netlabel related outlets, like the old Phlow site was very supportive.

How did you end up getting music reviewed in Spin and GQ? I can’t imagine this happening now.

Spin was for an R. Stevie Moore compilation I produced/assembled. GQ was for our first release/compilation, Two Zombies Later. Both were lucky. We did not approach either publication. But at the time we were releasing all genres where other netlables were more tuned into defined styles, for example just house or techno or ambient or experimental. There were also just a handful of netlabels 15+ years ago and things were still a bit new. It was before a lot of popular commercial bands were doing the free music platform as well.

Did you have success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?

I believe so, yes. The first person who listened confirmed our success.

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

Yes. Radio still to this day prefer a physical object. Promotion for digital has always been much more of an uphill climb for artist promotion. And for years navigating through the barrage of audio online is akin to the ‘needle in a haystack’.

Personally… I have been listening to a hybrid of digital to physical for the past 20 years and most of my new discoveries with digital happen via recommendations by friends.

Was the lack of a physical object ever a problem for any of the artists that you have worked with?

Not that I remember.

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

A couple release parties, yes. Some in Seattle (where I was based from 2003-2005) and others in parts of the world where the artist resided.

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

Labor of love.

What made you decide to shut down Comfort Stand?

In 2006 I had other projects ongoing and was moving from the US to Canada so could not give the label the time it deserved. Did not want to short change any releases or artists so pulled the plug.

The label will not return, but the website will get a revamp one of these days soon. In the meantime, we have most of the releases at FMA and IA for download.

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

Bandcamp, fantastic!

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

Any project is sustainable if you love what you are doing. Do it. Forget about numbers or audience. Just create and if that makes you happy, success!

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

For the netlabel, there was no political or aesthetic direction.

Artist material can be, sure. As our artist roster was spread across the globe in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.

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?

Total overlap. Without a doubt.

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

I’m no expert. Just an avid listener since the late 1990s.

Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?

I hope that netlabels continue to popup and morph into varied other forms of expression.

What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?

Want to grab coffee and go record shopping?

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