Electronicgirls

Interview received: May 16, 2017.

What is your name?

Johann Merrich.

Where are you located?

Venice, Italy.

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

Yes, we already have an archive; right now it’s a private archive – for internal use only – that collects all the information and materials (press kits, posters, flyers, pictures etc.) related to each release and gig made by the label. We consider our releases (they are uploaded on Internet Archive) as a public archive of our activities.

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

A netlabel is an independent music label that distributes for free its music on the net. A netlabel does not sell its music and does not print out any physical copy. A netlabel follows copyleft principles. 

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

It was around 2002, when I started to record albums with my electronoise duo Hm?; our releases were distributed on the net by the Italian netlabel otouv (the label expired few years ago).

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

Otouv. Netlabel based in Treviso, Italy. 

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

Clinical archives from Russia and Uhrlaut from Denmark and UpitUp from Liverpool. 

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

I wanted to share electronic & experimental music made by women. As an Italian – woman – electronic musician, I felt quite isolated and my will was to create a community operating in this field.

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

There are several reasons:

To distribute not-physical albums was less expensive than to produce physical ones. In Italy we have a lobby named SIAE that rules the rights of music authors and if you are not subscribed to this guild you cannot sell your music artworks. To be part of SIAE is quite expensive and – morally speaking – that system does not reflect our idea of “shared culture”.

The other reason is related to the progress of our technology: if everyone can download music for free (see: pirated music) it means that maybe that kind of market-system is not working anymore. Economy and technology must run together. We have a new idea of artistic economy: gigs must be paid with the right fee (something that barely happens) and digital music must be a gift. This does not mean that physical copies must disappear: you can pay to buy a physical object, if you wish.

Free music is also a nice tool to encourage people to listen to unknown artists or difficult kinds of music (experimental stuffs). There is no economical risk in trying to see if something is good or not for your ears.

What is the name of your netlabel?

Electronicgirls.org

Why did you choose the name you chose?

In 2009 I had a blog called “Stories form the eclectric girls” (a mix between “eclectic” and “electric”); I was collecting and publishing biographies of women who pioneered in the field of electronics. Soon after, I started to know more girls in my town involved in electronics; the name came out one evening spent at the pub.

When did you start your netlabel?

9 January 2010. Every year since then we celebrate our birthday.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

We promote and distribute experimental music produced with electronics and electroacoustics means. Our first year has been completely dedicated to female productions, and then we decided we did not want to be considered as self-secluded, as a “ghetto” for women; because music has no sex, we understood that our doors had to be open to every human being.

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

We releases our album in CC; we chose the classic “Attribution, Non-Commercial, Non-Derivate” formula, which is the one that suits us more. It’s simply brilliant.

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?

During our career, the netlabel became a sort of extended family; now we have friends from France, Brazil, Canada… Usually, if we really fall in love with someone’s music, we try to promote it in every way is possible. We invite artists to play in Italy, to do workshops, we organize gigs for them etc. Our artists become our friends. They are part of a big family.

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?

It’s quite rare that we ask someone to release an album for us. This might happen once you are already in the family. For example, Kalalunatic (electroacoustic composer from Amiens, France) sent us an email, asking us to release her album Alpha Canis Majoris. We did it, we invited her to play several times in Venice and then, the year after, we asked her to release another album for electronicgirls (she’s astonishing!). Usually people write us and propose their music. We always listen and reply to each email. Sometimes we have to reject the proposals; this is because we have a curatorial line: we distribute experimental music, not electro or other commercial things. One or two times in a year we also organize public calls for works, to see who’s around.

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

First of all, the music must be something that has got a research behind. In our seeking for experimentations, there are some music genres that we don’t really appreciate (see: noise, field recordings), so we try to avoid them. Quality is a strong criterion, as well projects’ originality.

What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?

Probably we would appreciate something that mixes classical instruments with electronics. Yes, this is something that is missing.

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?

Of course, there are many: Suzanne Ciani, Annea Lockwood, Laurie Spiegel, Eliane Radigue, Wendy Carlos… But they are only dreams of an old teenager!

How many albums have you released?

17.

Who are some of your most notable artists?

Well, there are many Italian artists who pioneered in the filed of experimentations in the 90s, like Patrizia Oliva and IOIOI (once part of Allun) or Tiziana Lo Conte (once part of Gronge).

Which are some of your most significant releases?

I think collective releases are among the most important; Electronicgirls Vol. 1 was our first release. I’m very proud also of our latest collective, The Seven Deadly Sins, it collects really impressive pieces of music.

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

Yes, I do. This is a quite complicated question. Sometimes I’d like to experience again that feeling… you know, when you send an email to someone asking feedbacks on your music… it’s a nice and constructive process… But I think that right now this wouldn’t be fair… I mean, if I run a netlabel I cannot propose my self to other labels… right? Well, it’s a kind of complicated…

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

I love to get in contact with music and people coming from all over the world. You can discover so many different planets! Plus, I love to find out something beautiful and to share it with people. When you see people appreciating your artists, well it’s a nice feeling. I get out of it happiness.

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

I’m not a web master, neither a graphic designer. I had to learn how to do those stuffs. For this reason I think we – as electronicgirls.org – don’t have a “supercool” branding. This is the most difficult part.  I would love to have good skills in these kind of things, but I am a musician, I don’t have really much time to spend in deepening the required knowledge unfortunately!

Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?

Sometimes people think that we are a group of geek lesbians only because we are women involved in electronics. This hurts very badly. Sometimes people do not take us into consideration because we are a netlabel and because there are many women in it. We are a 7 years-old label, and even today I have to underline that – despite our name – we are not a women-only-label or that we are not involved in any gender movement. So annoying.

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

My deep love for electronics.

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

Wow, never thought about it! Many. I don’t know exactly how many per day… let’s say 5 hours per day. But really, electronicgirls is like a continuous work from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. I also dream about future projects! I think we never had holidays!

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

Well, if it’s a routine day, I check the emails and reply to people. Then I take care of our educational projects (we make workshops, gigs and a festival in the frame of Live Arts Cultures, cultural association based in Forte Marghera) and I plan things to be done. I check the fb page, do some posts, do some like. Once a week I check our soundcloud page (yes, I know, it’s not enough!). Then, the website: I upgrade the contents and design them. I take care of our newsletter. When we have new releases, I start to prepare whatever is necessary to promote it: facebook ads, graphic contents, youtube videos, web pages, creative commons licenses, collecting materials for the press kit, arranging the press kits. Sometimes I also do short interviews with the artists, to better understand their philosophy, and so on. It’s a see of things to be done!!!

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

Mp3, classic 44.100Hz.

Why did you choose that format?

Well, it’s not really something we choose, many software for audio production works with this basic set-up on default. When we started we didn’t know much about audio compression. It happens like that because the majority of people were sending their music in that format. That’s it. We are not very nerdy in terms of audio-quality, we’re quite a DIY based label.

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

We zip everything in one folder (collection of single mp3s + booklet + cc txt license) and after we upload the zip on Internet Archives.

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

Yes, as stated above, there is always a booklet and a txt with the strings of the cc license.

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

Well, concerning the audio material, people send us things in the way we require (we ask to send one folder with the mp3 files + a short bio in English, 1 high resolution image representing the project/artist, the booklet with cover and title tracks in the proper sized pdf format). To upload our release we use Internet Archive platform. CC website for the licenses. Other graphical materials for the promo and the web site are made using Canvas. The website runs on a weebly platform.

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

Our website hosts links to Internet Archive. Plus, we upload things on soundcloud and youtube. We share everything on facebook and communicate the news through newsletters by using Mailchimp.

What do you do to promote your label?

We do many gigs, we are invited to speak about it at Universities or other cultural meetings. We have radio channels supporting us. We have a nice experimental singer who takes care of our press office and the relationship with newspapers and blogs. We use facebook and the newsletter system.

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

We have our favourite contacts. We gave up in trying to send things to the major Italian music newspapers because apparently they do not care about netlabels’ productions (except one who’s named Rockerilla that has got an entire page cared by Mirco Salvadori and dedicated to the labels).

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

We’re happy when clever authors are interested in our releases. Once we reach them, even if you can count them in the fingers of one hand, for us is a great satisfaction. Sometimes there is a little bit of frustration, because I think that in Italy netlabels are not really thought of as real labels that can propose quality. I think it’s a matter of values: if you sell something, it means that it has got a value and thus a quality; if something is for free it probably is shit.

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

Doing experimental music, we are very happy when we reach 100 or more downloads.

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

Yes, we check the download numbers each month on Internet Archive. I think the number depends on the artistic proposal. I did not see a real important change in the passing of years. Every time the number is variable.

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

As I stated above, doing experimental music, we are aware that we cannot have a big audience, so we are happy also with small numbers. Of course, it sometimes happens that one particular artist has not the deserved audience. For us it’s a shame, but still, you cannot constrict people to listen to everything.

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?

Well, I think that physical releases and digital releases are two completely different planets that engage two completely different audiences. The vinyl addicted will not spend his time in looking for new music throughout the net.

Regarding the media, I think it’s more a cultural issue that involves the belief into a certain kind of economics linked to the cult of the material goods. If something is physical, it exists; if it’s immaterial, it doesn’t. If it exists and you have to pay for it, it means it has got a quality value. If you don’t have to pay it, there is no value at all. I think it’s the main human philosophy behind everything. We are used to think that if something is for free, there must be a trap somewhere waiting for us.

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?

Sometimes, especially when you tour around the world, to sell your cd is a way to buy the fuel for your van; as electronicgirls, we give the complete freedom in this sense. If you want to release your album with us through the net it’s fine but if you need, you can also print it out by your self and do whatever you want with it. We are not responsible for that. It’s up to the artist. In 7 years this happened only 4 times.

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

Oh yes! Live performances happen day by day. Plus, since 2013, electronicgirls co-organize each September “Electro Camp – International Platform for new sounds and dance” and usually we ask our artists to perform there.

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

I work for free, as a volunteer. We finance the label (which means: to pay the website hosting and the merch) by making special gigs in which we ask for a cachet that we devolve entirely for our label. This happens usually two times in a year.

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

We hope to be an example: we want to make the music free from genders, ideas helping the new sound experimentations in rising up again.

Do you feel that you are or were filling a niche that other labels were not?

Let’s say that our female side makes us pretty particular.

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

I don’t know much about Bandcamp. Once I took a “discovering promenade” on the platform because I thought that it had a nice aesthetic that could be interesting for us. Then I found out it was required to pay something. In general, I don’t like to pay to share music. Our soundcloud page reached the maximum space and they asked us to pay the premium account to have more space. Well, I decided to refresh the page, removing some old stuff and replacing it with the newest. People should not pay to share cultures.

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

I think that netlabels – money free – can be a new sustainable way able to create a new economy and a new music business. They can change the entire system in a very easy way: artists distribute they records for free. This means that if a listener doesn’t know a particular artist, he/she can give him/her a try, a possibility; one can listen to unknown music for free and see if it’s in his/her cup of tea or not. If you like it, you are free to share that music among your friends, or you can make easy connections or artistic collaborations. In this way the artists’ audience grows.

But one artist must also eat, isn’t it? So festival’s promoters and gigs’ organizers must understand that EVERY GIG must be paid with the right salary; and this salary does not correspond to travel expenses (if you are lucky) + 2 beers and a rotten pizza. Do you offer to your plumber the same treatment? Don’t think so. So, if the artist can be paid for his/her performative job, he/she can earn money out of it and there is no need to sell music anymore. That’s my utopia.  

Are there too many netlabels?

I think there is a mess. I mean, we don’t have a real catalogue of labels. If you google “electronic music natlabels” the result is a super confused lists, very difficult to be surfed. It’s hard to find out the music you are looking for. Sometimes also the quality is not every time excellent. It’s a mess, I really don’t have an idea on how to fix it. I hope your research will be helpful.

Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?

Will music be obsolete before 2025? Will people be audience in 2025 or maybe they will be living their safe-Netflix-life on their own, isolated in their Ikea sofas?

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

Hm. I think that every action in your life is a political act that follows a philosophical position. Electronicgirls believes that music has got no sex. Believes in the freedom of cultures. Doesn’t believe in the actual cultural business and market rules. We care about our planet Earth, about environment, about human rights. Are we anarchists? Are we communists? I love the Futurism manifesto on music, and the musica futurista: am I a fascist? We think that women and men have got the same skills in technology. Are we feminist? Or lesbians? Or maybe we are just human beings trying to figure out how to survive in this planet, doing our best to follow our heart, our intuitions, to change things a little, to pursuit a feeling-good-mood. Don’t know. We’re only musicians making and sharing our art.

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 they are all different human expressions, with different goals pursued using different media.

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

I know it started with the born of the mp3 format and the development of internet and its uses. I know Uhrlaut Records has been the first using CC. The real netlabel’s boom started at the end of the 90s; that’s what I know – more or less.

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

I would like to thank you for your job!

What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?

I think you already asked us many many things!

 

 

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