MuteAnt Sounds

Interview received: January 31, 2017 and April 1, 2017.

What is your name?

Jay Reeve.

Where are you located?

Originally from New Jersey now in South Florida. My co-conspirator Vinnie Paternistro lives in New Jersey.

What is the name of your netlabel?

MuteAnt Sounds I had this moniker for over 20 years. I also abbreviate it as MAS.

What were you using MuteAnt Sounds for prior to it being a netlabel?

I had a small tape trading label I ran through the mail in the 90s and then CD-R label that I had a website for in the early 2000s.

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

I do on my computer at work because that is where the files get downloaded to. Not really interested in keeping them but I do. I think from time to time that I should back everything up just in case something should change with Bandcamp.

How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
An entity that hosts and distributes music online that are available for streaming and/or download.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels? 

2012 was when MuteAnt Sounds went live. Never knew anything before of netlabels. I was looking for someone to release a bunch of music Vinnie and myself had recorded. As usual no one really cared or offered so I tried SoundCloud a little but didn’t care for the format. So I think Vinnie set it up on BC (Bandcamp) and the FB (Facebook) page then uploaded Total System Failure A Frozen Hour. An album originally released on Black Noise via cdr. Before that I set up a page for my old band, Two Foot Tall Jerk, but that was an independent entity for a while.

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

Not a Netlabel but something of similar interest. I used to tape trade back in the 90s. I ran into Hal McGee from Gainesville FL eventually as did anyone who traded tapes. When I ran into him again as this whole social media world unfolded he was in the process of posting every recording he had made online. It kind of encouraged me and showed me how to release music freely and easily.

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

As I said earlier, I had a lot of music sitting around. It kind of snowballed, I don’t recall ever thinking about releasing other people’s music. That kind of just happened. It was thought to be inclusive to myself and Vinnie’s projects only I suppose at one point.

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

Right now we don’t have any free downloads, everything is priced minimally with buyer choosing the price. I did have it for free at one time but to me it makes it seem less legitimate. I have very little in download sales. Maybe a few a month. I try to split the money with the artist on a timely basis but usually I wind up donating all proceeds to a worthy cause. I gave Arthur Doyle [money] when I heard he was in a wheelchair and Steve Mackay when he got sick. Right now I am donating to Alex Diaz aka Xela Zaid who has some hospital bills. With the health of musicians and the waning healthcare system I have to try.

At this point, physical releases are too expensive. I have a family I am supporting, I certainly can’t spend x amount of dollars to press a couple hundred records, CDs or tapes. It’s not practical. I have in the past 20 years put out CDs, records and tapes, now this is easier, quicker and way cheaper. Not only do you have to everything pressed then you have to get people to buy it and listen to it. Being completely online it’s just a click away. Though not easy to get people to listen.

Can you explain why you feel that releasing music for free is less legitimate than?

I don’t oppose free downloads, in fact for a while we had free downloads, we might offer them again. And certainly I am not saying other netlabels that offer free downloads are less legitimate. Now that I clear that up. It felt to me that people weren’t taking us seriously because we offered them for free. If you put a value to it, people think “oh they really are serious, they really stand behind what they do.”

Why did you choose the name you chose?

It goes back to my tape trading days.

It was kind of a play on words, it was mutant sounds, the music is weird. Also it meant at the time period I was working some menial job so I was an ant in the hill but I was always plotting out how and when to send out more tapes.

When did you start your netlabel? 

2012.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

We release a vast array of music. From noise core to free jazz to ambient to harsh Noise to noise rock, experimental music all styles. It’s all experimental never the less. So basically the focus is to keep on releasing good, quality music from people and projects around the world.

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

That is entirely up to the artists. I don’t claim any ownership over their music or art. I am a vehicle to get it out, heard, promoted. I do prefer that aside from reissues that the releases are previously unreleased but after they are published through us they can do whatever they want with it.

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?

I have forged some great friendships through this. I try to maintain a running dialogue with them before, during and after the release. Vinnie is going over to Europe solo and he is actually meeting and playing with some of the artists that are now friends. It’s great to meet new people, new ideas and be challenged to publish some new innovative music. Being semi in retirement from playing and touring this is my outlet and it gives me a lot of satisfaction.

I do promote via FB and Twitter. I am usually dropping tracks on twitter a few times a week from the catalog. It’s fun, I usually have some ideas or themes in my head and post some links.

If I see that someone who released through MAS has a show, tour, recording coming out I share it. It helps us all out eventually. I’ve had people ask me if it’s OK to release music on another netlabel. I always say of course it helps us all out.

While I have a good relationship with almost all artists there are a few who sent me tracks and disappeared. Or they give me a great recording and [I] ask for more and they never get back to me.

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?

Luckily I put minimal amount of time into tracking down releases. I get approached 90% of the time for new releases. Vinnie has people that he curates and he has his various projects. I rarely turn down a release, they are always surprisingly good.

I don’t have any guidelines, just don’t be racist, sexist xenophobic etc. Don’t suck in general.

What are your criteria for the music you curate and release?
Be different, not commercial. I’ve actually turned down only a few projects. One because it was very racist/sexist and generally dumb; the other because it was too commercial.
It sounded like Nine Inch Nails, except more acoustic. The guy was like “what do you mean?” I said “you don’t belong on here, its not that you are bad at all, you could just do better than us.”
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours? 
Hip-hop, but not cheesy modern rap, more like old school.
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? 
Yes there are a lot out there too many to name.

How many albums have you released?

Right now, we have 111 releases to date.

Who are some of your most notable artists? Which are some of your most significant releases?

I have been fortunate as a musician to play with some pretty cool people. I am really fortunate as someone who runs a netlabel to get to release these recordings. We have releases from avant garde free jazz legend the late Arthur Doyle, Steve Mackay sax player from the Stooges, Violent Femmes, Snakefinger, who also passed on. We did some recordings with him in the studio and live when he sat in with the Blue Prostitute’s in 2007 in NYC. Kenny Millions – his jazz music was reissued through us plus his later day noise recordings. Ed Wilcox’s Temple of Bon Matin, whom myself and Vinnie played with for years, we have some reissues from small run CD releases. We just released a Love 666 recording called Armed Resistance, Love 666 had some recordings back in the 90s on Amphetamine Reptile Records. We are really stoked to have that release, a reissue of sorts from our friends at Mecca Faces Me. Just to name drop a few, all of our releases are significant in one way or another.

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

Yes, a little bit. It’s fine with me. It’s why MAS started.

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

So many things to get out of it. If it ever gets not enjoyable I promise to stop. The best is when someone is happy and thankful to have their music online. I enjoy the new music I get to hear.

I have to admit it’s a bit of a rush sometimes. When you know you have your finger on some new, never heard music and you are about to publish it to the world.

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

Nothing.

Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?

No not really.

 

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

A few hours a week really. I like to have the releases stocked up and ready to go. We do a lot of contemplating about what’s next. Though Vinnie and I live far apart we typically are in touch on a daily basis about business and operations.

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

A lot of posting, a lot of tweeting. A lot of emails, messenger etc. Uploading artwork and tracks.

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

I use bandcamp so its their formats. Its uploaded as wav at the best quality available.
Do you zip your files into a package, or are the albums uploaded as individual files? 
Uploaded individually.
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album? 
Any other artwork that is provided. If the artists hav videos, etc. I post them on Facebook/Twitter before the actual 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. 
I use as little as possible, sometimes I need to crop or make art work bigger I use a photo editing program. I use an online music converter. Nothing fancy just practical.

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

On Facebook and Twitter plus traffic from Google and searches on Bandcamp.

What do you do to promote your label?

Twitter is really helpful, it’s a great tool. At night time I blast off tweets with links for releases and songs. Facebook used to be cooler, I used groups a lot in the beginning to promote. Now FB is mostly just our main focus for releases while I just pump Twitter with links. It’s guerilla tactics. Get the name out there, you just can’t float something once and hope a thousand people see it. Especially on FB, they have tightened their algorithms to make it more difficult. I have never paid for ads though.

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

No I haven’t but I encourage the artists to promote and send reviews etc. I mean it’s all right there anyone who has a blog or zine can just sit and listen. I love the convenience. If any podcasts or underground radio wants free downloads to play get in touch!

Why do you choose not to send your releases out for review? Have any reviewing sites/magazines/blogs taken it upon themselves to review your releases unsolicited?

The releases are there for the reviewing. We have had some reviewed in various blogs, zines etc. I am not sure why I never followed up more on it.

I guess I never saw a need for us to do that. I am not even sure, do paper magazines and zines review netlabels? Is this part of the stigma?

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

Generally radio stations usually want a physical copy or they don’t have the capabilities to download them play it. Like I said before, I never sought out any reviews, it’s right there for the picking.

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

It’s usually only the first track they listen to.

Which is another reason I dig twitter, I can post a song that is situated towards the end of the release. People have short attention spans they get a taste and go. Like I said there is so much going on that it’s hard to get people to sit through more than one track. They are like hummingbirds, they get a little nectar and they are off to the next thing.

Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years? 
Sure I look every week or so to see what got played a lot or what got downloaded.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
It’s interesting, but its not the most important aspect. Its the feedback I get from the artists and the listener that means the most.

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?

People don’t take netlabels as a viable source of material, not yet, it’s getting there. If you can’t hold it they think it’s not real. I guess that’s the theme of this interview, it’s tough but rewarding. Do I wish that I could accompany every release with vinyl or CD or tape? Sure, but I am not independently wealthy. If download sales don’t get bigger I never will be rich, hahaha. We are pretty content with releasing in this format and it’s worked as far as getting the music out there. It works for us. It works for the artists. I encourage the artists to use us as a starting point, try to get some attention then expand upon it.

Gori from LoF LoE Lon in Spain, he contacted me about releasing his project. It’s amazing stuff, kind of a soundtrack for a detective movie if it was played by a no wave band, check him out.

He is a promoting machine, always on twitter plugging it. He’ll write somebody and say hey, have you heard Conventional Elements yet, he tags me and I send the link. It’s beautiful. He has been getting a lot of attention. A lot of airplay, zine interest etc. It’s all him too, I would never take credit for him doing his thing.

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?

I tell them straight up, this is what we do. No physical copies. I put it online, make it look the way you want. That’s it. I hope they can do more with it.

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

No but that would be cool. I just hope word of us spread by mouth. Like I said Vinnie is going to Europe solo he will spread goodwill and word of us.  He is playing some shows with Wayne Rex from England and our longtime friends from France, Other Matter, so that will be cool. I hope to have a showcase one year with all alumni of the label down here in Miami but again that’s a long shot.

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

I don’t put any money into it, I have a day job. I have to support my family. Luckily everything is 0 cost. I just spend a little time daily doing this.

What do you think your label’s legacy might be? 
Hopefully to be known as one that released some pretty cool and important experimental albums by some pretty awesome folks.
Do you feel that you are filling a niche that other labels were not?
Possibly, never really thought about it or felt that I was.

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

I love Bandcamp, I hope it never changes or closes.

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

Yes, more and more people listen to music on their phones through headphones on the go. There are no commercials (yet), it’s pure music through netlabels. I mean it’s getting so granular now in the last couple of years that people don’t even download music, it’s all streaming.

In a few more years who knows? I never would have predicted this. Way back when everyone had band /label websites and there was only a limited amount of content allowed because of space restrictions I wished there was an easier way to do it. I hated running a bunch of CDs off and printing covers. It was expensive and time consuming. One time I gave this guy a CD, a few months later he sees me at a show and told me that the CD I gave him got stuck in his car stereo and he couldn’t get it out because of the label on the CD surface I used. I apologized and thought “fuck this.” So I stopped until 2012. I couldn’t even imagine how many tapes I duped back in the 90s.

Are there too many netlabels?

I don’t think so but than again I am only aware of a few.

Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?

I hope not, but then again formats come and go. Return with popularity and disappear into obscurity after a few years.
I hope we as humans aren’t obsolete before then, the way things are going we could have bigger problems.

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

Well in this political climate around the world how can you not be even a little? Rex/Taylor put out Jazz Against Xenophobia recently on MAS. They are Brits so they are dealing with their problems with Brexit and now Trump is you know putting is on an unstoppable collision course with death. It’s hard not to be aware.

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?

Sure it’s still DIY except it got easier and cheaper. It can thrive just like anywhere else with any other medium. It’s all symbiotic, it always has been just the materials change.

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

I have no idea, can you elaborate?

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

I want to shout out to the people and projects on MAS. Thanks for involving me and MAS in your musical journey. My wife Carolynn and kids, sorry if I’m in my phone more than I should be, thanks for the support.

If there are any video artists that want to make and post videos for us, get in touch.

If anyone is in Africa, Australia or Antarctica and make music or sounds that might fit on MAS hit me up. I am trying to release something from every continent. Anyone else from the other four continents or space hit me up as well. jaycreeve@gmail.com

Or if you want to put large sums of money in my PayPal account, it’s our secret. jay_c_reeve@hotmail.com

What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?

Where does it go from here? What other social media site is useful? Does anyone venture off line to get their music promoted?

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