M.I.S.T. Records

Interview received: November 8, 2016; May 7, 2017.

What is your name?

Manuel Silva.

Where are you located?

Santiago de Chile, Chile.

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

I save emails and physical materials related to M.I.S.T., but the rest is always available online (our catalog is located on the Internet Archive, so we don’t really need to have a physical backup).

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

If they have free releases with CC licenses, or just if they use CC licenses, that’s a netlabel to me.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

I worked on a netlabel before I created my own. The people involved in it had some music published on these kind of labels, they were starting their own project and they invited me to participate.

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

Terranean Recordings. Iván Aguayo has some music published there.

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

Some Chilean ones, like Pueblo Nuevo and Jacobino Discos (which are the oldest).

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

I started to make music and my label (the one in which I was working) didn’t really help me in that process.

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

At first it was a natural decision because I didn’t have a credit card, so I wasn’t able to sell any music online. Then I realize that I wasn’t paying for the music that I was listening to in those days at all, so to upload free music suddenly was a really nice option.

When the label started to have a public and they commented some great things in our YouTube videos, posts on Facebook and stuff, I felt that it was the right thing to do.

What is the name of your netlabel?

M.I.S.T. Records.

Why did you choose the name you chose?

I wanted an acronym (it’s a really simple and boring story actually).

When did you start your netlabel?

June 23, 2012.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

To publish the best electronic experimental music that we can for free.

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

Creative Commons. Because CC is a simple license, easy to use and really flexible. We can do anything we want with that, so it’s cool for us.

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?

More than a label, we’re an artistic collective, so we work together in everything. I help them to achieve some press coverage and now we’re making some gigs (even when it’s difficult to do this for the music genre that they make).

I don’t know if we’re “friends”, but we’re really close.

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?

I approach them and they approach to me, but the main thing is the music. If it’s good and it fits in the label style, we do something about it. Now, I like to work with artists with no label, so then I can help them to reach something else in the future, like a “contract” with another label, participation on external compilations, etc.

I like to see M.I.S.T. as a “first step”.

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

If the music is good, then I have to contact the artist or vice versa. It’s just “a feeling”, actually.

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

House music. In Chile there’s a special scene and it’s amazing, I would love to release something by these guys.

Are there any artists that you have yet to release that you would like to work with? 

Alejandro Paz, Román & Castro, Valesuchi, Vicente Sanfuentes and all the Chilean house music scene.

How many albums have you released?

Over 200 albums.

Who are some of your most notable artists?

Bleak Fiction (Argentina), Arce (Chile), Eisenlager (Germany) and SQNCR (Russia). There are a few more, but they came to my head with the question.

Which are some of your most significant releases?

“4th Reich” by Horror House (it have like 2,000 downloads), “Parenthesis” and “Silencio” by Bleak Fiction and Proyecto Lazarus (both are collaborative albums between them), “Heroin Whore” by T‡†‡T, “Fear of Life” by Horror House (which was released for the Record Store Day 2014), etc.

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

It started with that. I think it’s nice, but when it isn’t for pure ego. I mean, when a label has just your work, or when you dedicate one Facebook post for an external release and 20 for your own, etc.

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

I love music, that’s why I do all this.

The thing I hate is when the artists wants to be part of the label, and they play rock or hip hop… It can’t be more obvious that they don’t know the label!

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

It takes a long time of your life. It isn’t something to do as a hobby, so I think that the main challenge is to try to do this (that doesn’t give you any money) for as long as you can without to lose anything important.

Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?

Yes, it’s always disappointing when you put a lot of effort in your label and it doesn’t work as you want. It’s important to be persistent.

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

Music and creativity, but it’s getting harder.

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

I don’t count that. I put as much time as it needs.

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

Umm… Listen to music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, upload the new releases to Internet Archive (that it’s A LOT OF WORK), make some PR, upload a single to our Soundcloud account, make and schedule some Twitter / Facebook posts, make a video for YouTube. Not in that particular order, but I think that’s the regular basis.

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

WAV 48 kHz 16 bit.

Why did you choose that format?

Because it has a nice quality and for noise and ambient, that’s really important.

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

In the beginning we use to do that, but when we moved our catalog to Bandcamp, we started to upload everything as individual files. Internet Archive has the same process.

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

The cover art and sometimes a text file with some information about the release.

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, Photoshop and iMovie.

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

Internet Archive, our blogs, Clongclongmoo, Facebook, Twitter, press releases, etc.

What do you do to promote your label?

I think there’s a point when you don’t really need to promote your label, because some people already know you, but at first the mouth-to-mouth is really important. Social networks help A LOT for that, but also to have some interesting music, send some tunes to music blogs, etc.

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 don’t do that much really, but independent blogs are always great allies.

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

As I said, we don’t do that much.

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

There’s a 50/50 work in that. We, as labels, are a platform for distribution, but the main responsible of their own work are always the artists. We can help them in a lot of issues, but the success or failure of their music is always on them.

In our case, the netlabel scene (label managers, artists, their friends and fans) has a very good opinion of us, so they listen to our artists a lot and they like it, so we have a general success in that.

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

We do it with some releases, and we notice that everything always depends on the PR, marketing (social media) and all that stuff. Bandcamp has a nice fanbase, so we were used to run out of downloads with some albums, but everything changed with the Internet Archive. It’s slower now.

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

Very important to me as a label manager, but not too much for the artist really.

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 think that the main hindrance is to not to be on the streaming services, because people doesn’t buy too many physical releases nowadays. A couple of months ago, I read an article that said that the album selling was as low as 1991, and Spotify, iTunes and all those services were sucking all that money, so streaming services are now the place to be.

Sadly, there’s a lot of netlabels that still work as if they were on the early 2000’s, so if you add that we need money for being on Spotify, but we don’t make any money with this, it turns in a really difficult scenario.

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?

Not at all. They all agree in to release digital music for free.

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

Yes, we organize the Chilean version of Netlabel Day (also the main event, which is an important instance for them) and also some gigs in Chile during the year.

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

I use free services and when I needed money, it always come out from my pocket.

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

Well, Netlabel Day is definitely a thing, but I think that the most important legacy would be feeling that we did something (anything) for the music and the netlabel scene. If someone says that we truly put “a grain of sand” in this beach, then I’ll be ok. Ha ha.

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

Not really, but I think that we have a few more ideas than the others and that’s what makes us a little bit different than the rest.

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

Bandcamp is a really really good service, but it’s so limited! I understand that it’s a product and you have to pay to get a better service, but that crap of the 200 downloads monthly is so annoying!

Soundcloud is also a nice service and I don’t want it to die, even when everyone is killing it since I can even remember.

FMA and Internet Archive are also amazing. They have a whole community that listen to our music, and its feedback it’s just amazing. I love them.

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

I think netlabels aren’t really sustainable during the time, but they’re so necessary.

I think the future is to convert the concept “netlabel” to “independent digital label”, because if we don’t do that, we’ll continue to see the whole bunch of netlabels closing as they use to do every year and that would be really bad to the music itself.

I’m not saying that we have to put a price in everything, but the artist’s work does have a cost and our work as label managers have a cost too, so we should sell some stuff in some point.

Are there too many netlabels?

There’s a lot of them, but I don’t think there are way too many. What’s sad is to think that, even when there’s a lot of them, not every label will be active in the next ten years.

Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?

People listen to music in other ways now. The mp3 download is on the way down and the streaming services are an active part of the industry now, so I think, more than being obsolete, netlabels have to mutate to independent labels but with a different focus. Not money, but the mission of develop more art in a massive way (streaming services, vinyl, etc.) If we keep doing what we do now, we’ll be obsolete in a few years.

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

We think that art has to be something free for everyone, but the Internet has democratized that concept, and now we all know that and we all fight for that everyday.

As I said before, M.I.S.T. is a first step in the music scene and I think that most of the netlabels are that too, so in a way, we’re contributing to that sociopolitical idea publishing free music and giving to the artists the chance to be part of this music world that we love.

Now, if you’re asking for worldwide issues (feminism, Trump, etc.), I think we should fight our fight and no other fights. That’s my humble opinion, of course.

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?

Time has shown me that there’s a public for everything, so I don’t think that it overlaps with anything. People that loves music always listen to it in any form. The rest is just the snob crap of always.

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

Personally, I have no idea of the chronological history of netlabels. I haven’t found anything on the Internet about that, so it would be nice to read that somewhere in the near future.

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

Yes. We’re the creators of the Netlabel Day, which is the first successful attempt to release a bunch of music the same day. This year (our second edition), we release more than 200 albums for free from 94 labels, and that number increases year to year.

You can check more info at http://www.netlabelday.com or just ask me anything 😉

What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?

I think “Why do you like to work alone?” is the better question that I can imagine now, because most of the labels I know are managed by just one person.

Also the age, because I know some guys of 16-17 that has a label (house music from the 90’s, amazing) and it would be interesting to know the ages, you know… I’m 24, by the way.