Interview received: January 11 – 12, 2017.
What is your name?
Vito James Genovese.
Where are you located?
Pasco County, Florida USA (gulf-coast region, 45-50 min north of Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg metro area).
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
Sadly I’ve now had a label across three separate computers, and in the case of previous computers I was unable to backup all file materials that have gone into certain albums and videos. Nevertheless I keep a thorough backup of all of the label’s albums & rendered music videos.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
Roughly mid-2014, with an interest in the genre scene of said netlabels (the vaporwave label scene) starting in late-2013.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
Inspired by F500, Ailanthus Recordings, Business Casual, admire Advanced Materials, Elemental 95, Adhesive Sounds (these latter labels came to my knowledge after starting my own label).
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
A curiosity as to just how enriched and diverse this particular genre scene of vaporwave happened to be in the very middle of the 2010s. I had a hunch that if I reached out to enough artists and went on an earnest enough hunt for people making vaporwave, that I might find some truly stellar material. Connecting people to music they like and connecting artists to people who like them are two of my favorite things.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
Vaporwave is a primarily sample-based genre, and 99.9% of all samples used in it are unauthorized. Therefore, I feel unethically sound about charging or requiring a fee/charge for people to have this music. Though some of our artists are composition-based solely, the majority of both our label’s music & of music is in this genre, and are affected by this to some degree. As for not releasing physical, it is a very similar reason: I do not believe that I have proper authorization to make physical print cassettes (or any other medium) of samples owned by other artists or record entities. I knew going in that I did not want this to be a business, so naturally, I did not want to have any physical ‘products’. Keeping it all digital gives me the moral freedom and purity of intent to keep it all about the music.
What is the name of your netlabel?
DMT Tapes FL (this label also has a name for its present season, which began on October 7th, 2016 and is considered to be Season 3. Season 1 was called DMT Tapes FL, season 2 was called DMT[REC], and season 3 is called Verbatim Consciousness Recordings. However, all three of these are given the blanket title of DMT Tapes FL (or DMT-FL for short).
Why did you choose the name you chose?
I had a series of revelationary experiences involving neurotransmitter dimethyltryptamine (DMT), coinciding with the time in my life between 2013 and 2014 that I discovered vaporwave and really craved to know more about the digital music scene. At the time also, I was writing a series of short stories, and one of them involved a (then-)fictitious label that I had called ‘DMT Tapes’. The idea was that the artists on the label were taking DMT and composing music, which happened to be phenomenal (sci-fi cheesy shit, which later got scrapped for slightly-cooler tweaked stories, but I’m digressing!). Since my short stories all take place in the state of my birth and lifelong residence, Florida, I merged the two major story themes into the real label that I created in order to ‘character study’ what this label might be like to write about in a fictional-story sense. As you can see, I’ve taken things a bit far now that I’m 2.5+ years departed from when that short story and the label’s title even came into existence.
When did you start your netlabel?
November of 2014, right in the middle of the month. I started as the sole artist, but I used different artist monikers without letting onlookers know that they were all me. I only did this for two months before the first artists arrived, and by the summer of 2015, I almost entirely phased out this practice. The label more formally begins in January of 2015 by this admission.
What is the focus of your netlabel?
Vaporwave, future funk, bedroom electronica, ’80s/’90s nostalgiaism and hypnagogia, chillwave (though very rare on this side of the decade).
How did you first get into vaporwave and what was it about vaporwave that appealed to you?
Vaporwave and I started our relationship on the last day of August in 2012, where I brought two albums with me on summer vacation (a hotel I love and have gone to since I was a young child, 1993-2000 about 5 times, and then 5 times in my late teenhood / early adulthood). I had a tradition of bringing two or three albums I’ve never heard before with me on vacation, and I picked two: ƒin by John Talabot (which became my intro to the subgenre Balearic Beat, which I adore and this album became an all-time 10/10 favorite of mine), and Far Side Virtual by James Ferraro (my first vaporwave album ever, and at that, a VERY different one from what most vapor is.) FSV was definitely weird, and since I had seen it mis-tagged as ‘chillwave’ I was super shocked. I walked around this hotel and on at least 6 or 7 tracks, I was genuinely stupefied with how beautiful and otherworldly these sounds were. This was the beginning of a slow trickle for me. Vaporwave in 2012 to 2013 was still very disestablished, so I naturally couldn’t find much.
Fortune 500, the label, began at the beginning of 2013, so I gave up by the end of 2012 and had a midwest emo / pop punk revival phase (I still love the stuff. that was just a complete departure from the tropical electronic / nostalgic stuff that the summer of 2012 seemed to be leading me in), but by the end of 2013, in November/December, I hit the vein that got me into a huge year of vaporwave. That would be this YouTube of David Dean Burkhart, particularly this famous video that I’m sure you know well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrR1TGQY20Y from November 2013 to November 2014, I just got as much vapor as I could. and by the end of that year, in combination with the story I was writing and the wanting to see what ‘running a vapor label’ could be like, I took to the task and began the ‘many monikers’ method as a means of attracting real artists, eventually. I had this idea that I could just keep coming up with fun titles, not to be deceptive or even mystique-ish, but, I’ve always felt that the artist title and album title are sometimes equally as important as the musical content. You’re setting the stage in vaporwave with all aspects of the release. Vaporwave really deconstructs the format of the album / EP and lets the artist control every parameter of the theme. And as someone who began his album-collecting obsession in high school with a heavy focus on concept albums, I felt this genre-scene was the home for me very quickly once I dived in.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
None of the albums published on our netlabel have any special distinction regarding copyright. All of our samples are uncleared and all of our artists (both those using samples and those who have not) do not provide us with any sort of copyright or contract-type agreement.
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?
Casually approachable and helpful; I really feel that the relationship is symbiotic between digital artists and digital label runners. I try to give all artists as much equal time and attention as can be, and usually those who I hit it off with enough to release an album with are people who I’m able to drop a line to or IM to see what’s going on. Very few artists who have submitted to us have gone AWOL or silent (though it does happen!)
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?
This policy has shifted back and forth all throughout DMT-FL. Season 1 was founded upon putting up submission threads on places like Reddit or Weird Facebook, and letting a broad net catch as many interested artists as possible. I tried to see who all would go best together in the same gallery and mixed it with what I hoped to be hearing in vaporwave, and based on this is how I’ve chosen most of what we feature. Since DMT[REC] and VCR, I’d say 75-80% of our releases come from me approaching the artists directly. However, I always keep the contact info up on the Bandcamp/Soundcloud so that newcomers can pitch me their new EPs. There is an amazing amount of gold to be gotten from keeping that line of communication open.
What made you decide to divide your releases into “seasons?” And is there a significance to the titles of the seasons? Are the releases in each season thematically related or anything? Do you try to incorporate releases into the narratives you have created with your storytelling?
Seasons! So, I’ve always been a sort-of ‘storytelling junkie’. From getting invested in the storyline in whatever games I was playing growing up (Final Fantasy IX, Super Mario RPG, & Harvest Moon 64 were like a holy trinity of games where I couldn’t care less about the game play and just really wanted to see where the story was going or could go). When I started writing (successfully wrote my first 200-page novel when I was 19 as part of National November Writing Month 2011; won five free published copies of my book!), I always envisioned writing with the ultimate ‘dream’ of having a visual form of my story. I became a TV drama/comedy/thriller junkie as soon as I became an adult; to this day my heart is pounding thinking about things like Better Call Saul season 3 or House of Cards or the end of Game of Thrones at the end of the decade. So, when I was writing these stories across 2013 and the summer of 2014, I had this dream (even if it was just a dream) of having a side-adaptation that people can better experience. Even though I love to write, I tend to feel underwhelmed by a story’s application on paper alone (which makes me feel sinful, because I do like reading but it’s hard for me to convey certain emotions without color, sound, facial expressions… a story is just so much different with picture). Meaning of course, if I wrote books, or stories, I would hope to one day collaborate with a person or person(s) to construct a movie, animation, series, et cetera, that goes beyond simply reading it.
DMT Tapes FL felt like the adaptation in many ways when I started, and even today when I do any release of my own on the label, it’s a personal adaptation from the short story archive of my Florida epic I’ve been hoping to write ever since the first book in early 2011. The reason I chose to divide the label into seasons is simply to emulate the way a TV show season may work, where it comes back in the autumn and goes (with a tiny Christmas break) until May/June. It also allows me to redirection the label in those 3 months off.
As for the titles of the labels themselves, I’ve always enjoyed to reference the VHS/VCR aesthetic that our primary plugs (the YouTube vids, which we have about 615 right now and rising) tend to have in their overall visual look. DMT Records was designated to be the season 2 name but then we saw there were 2 labels already called that, so the [REC] was meant to look like what you’d see on a home movie camera while it’s recording. Verbatim Consciousness Recordings, the name, actually came to me back during season 1 of DMT before I knew it would be a full-fledged season of the label one day. it was originally going to be exactly what DMT-FL started as: a place for my monikers alone. The first 9 releases of VCR are all me and then you see the actual artist activity pick up.
How many albums have you released?
362, as I type this on 01/11/17.
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Dan Mason ダン·メイソン, waterfront dining, haircuts for men, 猫 シ Corp., nano神社 (✪㉨✪), Iacon, コンシャスTHOUGHTS, Dante Mars Ajeto！, Windows 98の, b o d y l i n e, Jamie Bathgate, and 3D BLAST (just to name a few! this was a very hard list to come up with without just cramming it full of like 40 names, haha. Gotta cut myself off at 12).
Which are some of your most significant releases?
Miami Virtual (by Dan Mason ダン·メイソン), SEGAS I/II/III (by nano神社 (✪㉨✪)), In Fall 秋 (by waterfront dining), MELT: PLUS (by Dante Mars Ajeto！), Ｌｏｎｅｌｙ Ｎｉｇｈｔｓ (by コンシャスTHOUGHTS).
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes, but in a very particular way that makes me the ‘caboose’ of the label. meaning, I do not promote my own work. I do not give it a prime slot at the top of the Bandcamp. I tuck all my work away at the bottom of the page and it is only there for hardcore fans and those curious enough to creep down and see what I’m making. (I do not consider myself to be a very musically-gifted person, nor do I identify as a traditional music artist. I believe this label serves best when it’s working for other artists). I think labels that have this practice can work especially well when the curator is musically gifted, however.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
I enjoy the general act of curating and being responsible for a collection of content. I get a genuine pleasure out of watching and recording the statistics of everyday streaming, play hits, downloads, playlists we’ve been newly featured in. Seeing the busy buzz of the internet as millions upon millions of potential listeners cycle past and through the channels I frequent, there is a distinct rush I get knowing that some big plug for one of my artists could be around the corner. There is genuine thrill in doing this because I love the conquest of music creation and listening experiences.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
Keeping on top of everything. I can let things get backed up from time-to-time, but this is a personal habit that I’ve had my whole life, so it’s natural to me that it extended into my work a bit. I have never had a backup that is unresolvable though. The number one disappointing thing has been the ability for vandals or malevolent actors to attack my free Bandcamp credits with impunity. I wish there were better safeguards for those who wish to use Bandcamp in a largely non-monetary way as I do.
What are people able to do to attack your free Bandcamp credits? Can you explain how releasing albums for free on Bandcamp works? I have no experience with hosting music on Bandcamp, so I’m curious. Why would someone attack a Bandcamp page?
So the way Bandcamp download credits work, I buy either 1000/$20 or the rare 5000/$75. This allows that many versions of the digital album to be gone and gotten. The problem is, when you go download it, it brings you to a page where it prepares the album in a ZIP, then gives you a URL to click to activate the download. The primary problem is, you can click that button repeatedly. Each time you click it, it deducts a download credit from my Bandcamp, even if the same person/IP accidentally double-clicked and sent requests a second apart. I think it would be as simple as causing the URL to be clicked one and then greyed/unclickable, Because then it will keep people from having this problem. But what I just described is just earnest mistake, when a person accidentally does it twice. A person with malcontent in mind can go to any album and just button mash it all day long, or as a different label owner pointed out to me, use a PythonScript to send hundreds of requests in minutes. The result is me waking up one day to find that all 3K downloads are gone, when we were getting only 100 downloads a day and we suddenly have 2,930 on this one album that came out obscurely in 2015, no plug anywhere or reason to think the d/l’s are real.
The biggest problem of all, though? When you run out of Bandcamp download credits, BC forces all of your albums to $7. There is a trick that lets you make them all $1 but it requires manipulation and it’s technically a glitch. But, there is no way to make them all FREE / Name Your Own Price / $0 at once. You must do it one by one by one. On a label with hundreds of releases, that’s unfathomable. I’ve had days of my time robbed over it in the past, and when it happened to the season 2 DMT[REC] post-season, I didn’t even and still haven’t restored the account. Because it would take a long time and all day, and that’s what those with malice intend to do I assume. I have learned to not worry about it as much, as I have MEGA mirrors that I link to on the label pages. And those are protected with 12TB of d/l bandwidth.
I have had correspondence with Bandcamp within the last month or so about this issue, and they assure me two things: that it’s a glitch causing the excessive downloads (which I think could be true in some cases, but definitely not all. Some people have bragged before in social media about draining credits. Which is essentially causing the money I spend on Bandcamp to be vulnerable to someone clicking a button a bunch of times. It’s a great way of slowing a label down. God only knows if there really are other entities in vaporwave trying to sabotage others. I haven’t experienced anything like THAT openly, I’m glad to say).
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Aside from the aforementioned thing, not particularly. I went into this with little to non-existent expectations about what I might find, so most things are a delight or a curiosity to have happen to me in the entirety of the netlabel-running experience.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
Every day to some extent. I would say it easily satisfies the criteria of a 30-40 hour workweek between the review writing, the album submissions, the video-editing for promos, the various mixtapes that get made and plugging ideas that need implementing. Then there are meta-duties such as maintaining the archive I mentioned earlier, et cetera.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
The three primary tasks at this point are: decide who gets in and when, maintain the video-visual aesthetic of the label through YouTube promos and other facets, and write text-reviews (usually 400-600 words but some have gone past 1000+) for albums that are on my label (and some for those who are not, as a hugely affable way of introducing myself to artists who maybe I haven’t gotten in touch with yet. Networking and keeping in touch with what’s new in vaporwave is paramount.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Bandcamp is our primary domain; Mega.NZ is our host for backup mirrors (presently only available at 320kbps mp3 due to space constraints) . I also regularly am logged into Soulseek, where I have shared the entire DMT-FL folder in .rar . I have never submitted DMT-FL to archives due to the samples that vaporwave contains. I am uncertain if my label’s body of work would be in compliance with the Terms of Service of some of these sites (but by all means, I’d love to get them in to sites of this sort if they were allowed).
Is there a lot of netlabel activity on Soulseek?
Not as much as I would like. I notice that albums that are already available for free on their original medium (like a NYOP bandcamp such as mine) are scarcer on Soulseek simply because there is less demand for the share, with how easy it can be obtained from the official source. However, labels that suddenly run out of credits for instance, or labels that charge money (even the $4 an album digital labels) have a much higher share-count on Soulseek. I notice it is a refuge for those who wish to download really whatever they want, so the stuff that costs money is more on there than the stuff that isn’t. BUT, we do get plenty of mirrors and people sharing our albums on there. There is a netlabel scene on Soulseek but I haven’t been able to really network on there personally.
What do you do to promote your label?
I run two YouTube channels called DMT/•/TV (the primary for the label) and ＬＳＴＨＥＴＩＣ (a sandbox channel for both DMT and non-DMT song vids). I also maintain a Facebook/RYM review project called 1001 Vaporwave Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The combined followership of these pages is roughly 3000-4000 today, where it was probably 1000-2000 a year ago. The ‘Buzz’ page on the DMT-FL Bandcamp shows heavy correspondence to our videos doing well and high visitor traffic. (I also do plenty of posting of new content on my personal FB and Twitter pages.)
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
I have only done this a few times before, and by no means on any scale depicted in the question. At the most, I sometimes give advance copies to particular DMT-FL fans that I know may like the body-of-work of the artist releasing it. I don’t like to keep things too under wraps! I haven’t been able to get anybody to review an album pre-release… yet!
Why do you choose not to regularly send out releases for review?
That’s a good question! I guess it’s because I wouldn’t know the first thing about where to start or who to send it to particularly. All of the reviewing I’ve done and seen across my life has either been throughout the platform I frequent, Rate Your Music, where people like me just freelance write and do it for the love of it, or it’s been the reviewers at mega-places like Pitchfork and Tiny Mixtapes that don’t take as seriously some of the vaporwave phenomenon (though that’s changed slightly in 2016). It’s something I should really look into doing, and accommodating to my promotion cycle. I’d love to know more about how you’ve done this if you wouldn’t mind telling me!
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
Zero (haha). No frustration though, as I am capable of writing the reviews myself.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Yes I do believe I have. There are some who treat it like pulling teeth, but surprisingly, it’s easier to get strangers to check out my label’s music than it is personal friends’ or in-real-life peers. Something about an internet-based genre makes this music more easily shareable in the online format. That’s a huge plus for the accessibility of a label such as this one!
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?
I do not. Physical media is something that will always be cherished by some, but I have always held dear the actual content of the music and the media, and this is something that is not lost on me (and I believe, many many others) when it comes to the consumption of all-digital music such as what we feature on DMT-FL. To me, it makes it realer than anything, knowing that there is sometimes not a version of a release I love that I can hold in my hands. (Of course, a cassette-syndication run doesn’t diminish the specialty either!)
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?
It can sometimes stop a conversation or email chain dead in its tracks. Not on my end! The artist will assume that we deal in physical media due to the presence of the word ‘tapes’ in our name, get frustrated when they find out we’re digi-only, and sometimes that’s the end of it. In a few cases, I have gone out of my way to find cassette labels that will do day-of-release syndication and 25, 50 tapes for the artist. I have done this for a few albums that I knew I needed the label to have, simply because the music and image and artist were all beautifully right for my label and I didn’t want to let certain releases slip from our grasp. For the most part, I do not mind when an artist wants to end correspondence over not being able to have a physical from us. I give all artists the ability to release their album on any label outside of us. I do not retain any kind of exclusive rights to anything an artist gives us, and this tends to soothe most artists’ worries when they hear we only do digi.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
I do not, but only because it’s something I have zero knowledge or aptitude towards. Major respect to those who are involved with that.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
I do allow the Name Your Own Price to be active, and for artists who do not make past a certain $ amount (which is most of them, as only 3% of all our listeners contribute $1 or more; the other 97% are $0 listeners and I am fine with that). The NYOP has been instrumental in allowing us to restock download credits, upgrade software (started with Windows Movie Maker and Audacity. changed that really quick). I also chose to use a portion of money that had been saved for my early adulthood and from family. It has been the single investment in my life that I feel no worry about having spent toward.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
Terrific (minus that small vulnerability issue involving the download credits). Platforms like this are the present and future of music (and hell, a hefty chunk of the past by now. The 2010s really bloomed with Bandcamp.)
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Definitely, to a point that I believe we are seated on the precipice of seeing more and more netlabels than ever before. Watch out for the 2020s, where I believe the flourishing will take place. The ease that one sees today of being able to start a netlabel from scratch… that’s only going to get easier.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
Not as a label, no. We have artists on five continents and in a couple dozen countries, and the diversity of ideology and culture is too immense to get involved in this sort of thing. I do, however, allow my personal Twitter to be exactly that: a voice for my personal thoughts, which have at times been political in nature. The only theme of philosophical position that I believe DMT-FL has taken (aside from the theme involving DMT and being very pro-pharmacological alteration) is that nobody owns sound. No one owns a melody. No one owns a waveform. The nature of excessive sampling in our label is part of the theme, and as I’ve loved to say, “making old songs into new songs” is a huge tenet to what all our artists are about.
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 almost forgot! The podcast! Podcasting is definitely a huge staple to having met a ton of cool people related to vapor. I got to meet my influences and talk to them in-voice, like Luxury Elite (founder of Fortune 500) and FrankJavCee (vapormeme sensation). As for the cassette trading and art thing, I just love all of it. The entire hub of a vaporwave label feels like where I was meant to be.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
I am not!
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
At the moment I can’t think of it but I’m finishing this at 12:15AM, so it’s super possible I’ve forgotten things and I apologize deeply for that!
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
This was honestly a very comprehensive list and I think that there is little else I would ask. But, I would also ask a. what genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours? b. what artists in your genre/field have you yet to work with, and could see as being an achievement to have on? this is all I can think of.