Interview received: December 15, 2016; January 28, 2017; May 14, 2017.
What is your name?
Hi, I’m Gaetano and together with Luca, Tony and Vincenzo we’re running Sucumusic netlabel since September 2013.
Where are you located?
We’re from Enna, Italy.
Do you save any materials digital files, emails, physical materials related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
We mainly upload all our releases to Archive.org and Sonicsquirrel.net. We also use other websites such as Jamendo, etc. We do not make physical copies of our artists’ release. We made some CD-R from time to time and distributed for free in some events, just for promotion purpose. We organize our materials in my computer. Yes of course we could be interested in organizing and archiving all our activity into a unique place.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
Well I prefer to stay quite pure with this definition. I.e. I think a netlabel is a kind of an underground online entity that distribute music for free, taking care to protect the artists’ paternity of the releases
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
Three of us are musicians, and we’ve always look for new ways to promote our music projects. I’ve started uploading and distributing my music in 2005 in sites such as Vitaminic and MySpace. I’ve heard about netlabels and Creative Commons sharing culture in 2006.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
Back in 2006 I’ve contacted different nelabels to get my music released. The first netlabels names I remember are Laverna and Negative Sound Institute. The last one released various music projects of mine, although they discontinued their netlabel activity.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
Negative Sound Institute, Noisybeats, Ephedrina, Laverna, Brusio, Nostress.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
As I often say, Sucumusic was born by a failure. Yes, the failure of self promoting my music via the DIY distribution services, both free and commercial. We believed that Netaudio and Creative Commons vision offered much opportunities and a specific and wide audience fond in the music genres we wanted to distribute.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
Well, these are times in which music industry is deeply changing. And moreover electronic, ambient, experimental music are certainly not music genres by which you can hope earning big money or money at all sometimes. So we decided to distribute for free the music we release because this would have set the artist free to express all their creativive potential. Physical albums have costs that we don’t want and cannot afford. We cannot distribute or music for free if we made phisical copies of our catalogue.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Why did you choose the name you chose?
Ah! It was born as a joke! Back in 1998 I needed a fake label name to publish a CD of an old music project I was part of. We made funk and the songs were sung in Sicilian slang. So Sucu Music stumbuled upon my mind. When we decided to start our netlabel we wanted to join our homeland slang with English, for no particular reason I should say. So “Sucumusic” appeared again. “Sucu” is the sicilian word to say “sauce”. You could roughly translate the name of our netlabel as “music sauce.” The actual logo of our netlabel is a modern sketch of a tomato shaped into a note.
When did you start your netlabel?
September 21, 2013.
What is the focus of you netlabel?
I report what is stated in our “About us” page:
Sucumusic’s aim is to produce and promote stimulating music entities, both local and otherwise. The musical genres it deals with are ambient, experimental music, electronic music, improvisation in all their possible incarnations, manifestations and hybridizations.
Sucu Music wants to be a space wherein all the relational dynamics between and among these genres can develop and interact, bouncing from a field to the other as in a hall of mirrors, or a network of cross-references, led only by the musicians’ creativity and artistic feeling. A space wherein the freedom of musical action is not smothered by any restrictive logics of a commercial nature.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
Creative Commons 4.0 of course. It’s the perfect license that let you distribute and widely share music for free, protecting the artists work. It’s the license type of the worldwide netaudio community.
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?
Well, aside of our personal projects, we try to keep contact with all our artists. Some of them are friends of ours, and it even happened to start collabortive projects. We do what we can to promote their music, in blogs and webzines, out of our pages. But unfortunately, I have to say that many of them have “closed their doors” lately. I mean, it has become very difficult to get a release reviewed. Not to mention some sites that it is impossible to receive feedback from once contacted or even those who ask for money to get a release reviewed.
Why do you think many of the sites that reviewed netaudio have stopped publishing? Do you have any thoughts about what happened?
Well I’m aware that there’s so much work to do and a lot of material to deal with. Writing reviews and promote them on the web takes its time. I’m not saying that everyone managing blogzines should review everything. I’m only experiencing that some of them are closing, some are changing their policy, dedicating less time to reviews. It’s a bit easy being featured with a brief profile of a release. But I think that reviews and thoughts about the music are more useful to let people have an idea of what they can find on the internet.
You’re asking me the reasons why? Well I don’t know, maybe less time to spend on it, maybe less enthusiasm, maybe the deep discography changings, due to streaming on demand, are influencing the independent netaudio world too. Actually, switching to a streaming on demand netlabel based, for example, on a smartphone app could be an interesting step forward.
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?
Well, all of this.
What are your criteria for the music you curate and release?
Creative music project, local artists making creative music.
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
We deal with ambient-electronic-experimental music. The choice is wide.
How many albums have you released?
26 releases and one compilation, so far.
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Cousin Silas, Yan Terrien, Stephen Briggs, Claudio Quartarone and, sorry for being self-referential but Gaetano Fontanazza and Purple Mountain Peal collected many downloads, so I think people like this music too, LOL.
Which are some of your most significant releases?
Well, looking at the releases statistics and special features I could say: The place it used to be, Sounds on Canvas, Gate One, BridGe, Nebbie mattutine and A basketful of shattered dreams which was released including a short story ebook written by one of the artists.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
Yes of course and I always struggle with the feeling of not abusing of that. Anyway, we love creative music and we love releasing and distributing creative music projects from all the world. We also love our land and we are always very happy to release music of the artists of our land.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
Absolute creative freedom, Sharing culture, meeting like minded people.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
Time, time, time! Time is always missing. It’s pure passion, and unfortunately you won’t ever pay your bills running a netlabel. You always feel that you are not spending enough time to do all that is needed cos’ you continously have to face your working life.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Hmmmm, nothing we could not face.
What keeps or kept you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are frustrated?
The freedom to distribute music for free anytime we want, anytime is needed.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
I don’t know. There are times when I spend days and days into Sucumusic, there are times I can’t even open the homepage.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
We contact interesting artists and we listen to the projects people submit. Once listened to their work, we choose to release it or not. We talk about what could be the best way and time to get a selected project released. We usually publish a release as it is, we usually don’t make editing or tracks selection. I mean we put it on the web as submitted and suggested by the artist.
We often project and layout the cover art. I’m a graphic designer, Tony, Luca and Vincenzo have photography passion. We have lot of visual stuff for our releasing artists. So if they have not their cover we are very happy to provide them our solutions.
Then we write a review of the release and build its page. We upload everithing to our storing website and then we start promoting the thing.
All these steps are promptly comunicated and discussed with the artists in order to receive their feedback and advices. We want artists to feel happy when they release with us.
How do you divide up the responsibilities of running the label between the four of you?
Well usually we all discuss about music to release. Tony and Luca are good in writing text and reviews, Vincenzo does the website stuff, and I do scouting, promotion, graphics. We often arrange the release cover for our artists too, taking inspirations of Tony’s Vincenzo’s and Luca’s photography archives.
In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?
MP3 320 kbps.
Why did you choose that format?
Quite crisp and clear bitrate and portable enough.
Do you zip your files into a package? Or are the albums uploaded as individual files?
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
We release our files with full text and graphics metadata, anyway, we always include cover and back cover JPG images, sometimes PDF files. We have a release including an ebook in various format, too.
What software programs do/did you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
Sony Audio Studio for encoding, kid3 for metadata, filezilla for ftp, photoshop for graphics. If some artist ask us to tweak their mastering we use Reaper with various plug ins.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Yup, a combination of archiving, collecting and featuring sites.
What do you do to promote your label?
Social media, netaudio portals, blogs, webzines.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
Yes we do that.
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 before, It has become extremely difficult get reviewed, lately. A bit better to be featured or scheduled.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Yes I must say. And once your netlabel name is known, things goes to their own way sometimes.
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years?
Yes we have a spreadsheet file, counting each release/global tracks download from our various mirrors, Jamendo trackable streamings, and a report per release/artists/year. We usually update all catalogue statistics with each new release. We’re very happy to see that even the oldest release still have donwloads.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
Well, sure they have their importance to see what kind of music goes better and what not. Though this counts little when we choose what to release. Creative music is what we constantly look for.
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?
Nope, not really.
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?
Really few artists asked for physical copy. I responded that it’s a matter of costs. And yet they released and continued releasing with us.
Many submitting artists that refused to publish with us, are new to the netaudio culture and are a bit confused about the Creative Commons license, they are almost scared of it, mostly because they don’t even know what CC license is.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
We set up a netlabel festival where some of our artists came performing for free. Some of them even played from their home via live broadcasting. It was awesome. We could made it again in the future.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
Finance, what? The few money needed come all from our wallets. We wanted Sucumusic to be a zero cost adventure as possible.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
I think it’s a good commercial system. Better than online streamings. But it’s worthless without a fan and followers base. You have few hope to earn money or even to collect some free download and spread the word about your music.
Many netlabels store their release in Bandcamp, thus letting opened the opportunity to be paid for their releases or selling merchandise. We decided to stay with a “traditional” profile. Free wherever, whatever.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Yes they are. I don’t know, many netlabels die after few years. I think it is the natural course of things. Some of them resists thanx to a neverending passion. Some of them change into commercial labels. I hope we’ll resist for passion. Passion for free music and free sharing. I think this is an imperative that will never die. Netaudio will transform in the future depending on what low-cost technology and media sharing will offer to us. It’s just like the underground cassettes selling and paper fanzines in the eighties/nineties. They were like netlabels in their on way.
Are there too many netlabels?
Maybe. Depending on the fact that anyone can deal a netlabel, but how many good netlabels are there? Not too many at all. Is our netlabel a good netlabel? Maybe… I think… Yesss! 🙂
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
Hmm, who knows? I hope no.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
Absolutely not and we ever won’t.
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 don’t think they overlap, They rather alongside them. It’s just another way to share media content with a bit of underground taste.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
Oh my! I know something about, but, too long to answer, sorry.
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
That’s all, thanx for your work in keeping netaudio alive.