Interview received: November 4, 2016; April 9, 2017.
What is your name?
Thomas Jackson Park
Where are you located?
St. Louis, MO USA
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
They are saved on archive.org, but I do not personally save them.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
Netlabels offer their materials online for streaming or downloading, and generally offer them for free.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
About 15 years ago—from labels like Sine Fiction and Webbed Hand Records.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
I believe it was Sine Fiction.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you?
Or that you admire? Webbed Hand Records, Eg0Cide Records, Buddha On Fire, Petroglyph.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
I wanted to archive my experiments in generative music, and thought that no one else would do that.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
I wanted to emphasize accessibility, and realized that the music industry was in no position to generate money from releases.
What is the name of your netlabel?
Why did you choose the name you chose?
I found it to be organic and connotative of generative music
When did you start your netlabel?
June of 2005
What is the focus of you netlabel?
Treetrunk began featuring generative music and expanded into many varieties of experimental music
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
Creative commons, for ease of dissemination and access
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?
Treetrunk maintains a casual but amicable relationship with our artists. We don’t promote much, but do tend to feature the same artists more than once.
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?
Artists tend to approach me. I listen to their works and act as curator, deciding if the works are suitable for Treetrunk.
What are your criteria for the music you curate and release?
For Treetrunk, I feel it has to be a bit experimental, not too popular-sounding, and not too dark.
What genres have you never released before, that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
I would like to release indie dub music. That kind of music tends to find different labels, though. It’s kind of a niche.
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?
For sure. There are many, in fact – they tend to be artists whose work I admire. I’d rather not mention names.
How many albums have you released?
361 as of now.
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Forrest Fang, Gas Tank Orchestra.
Which are some of your most significant releases?
We proudly host the “Constant” series, a group of releases involving finding the most minimal sounds possible to listen to for some time. Some of P. Wilkerson’s “Complex Silence” releases are on the netlabel. Forrest Fang as an original ep on Treetrunk.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel?
What do you think of that practice? I release a lot of my own work on Treetrunk, unapologetically.
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
It’s nice to have a hub where I can share music I create and music I like by other artists.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
Now and then I get a demo when I am not in the mood, but I tend to grin and bear it.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
Not really, it’s been very redemptive.
What kept you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you were feeling frustrated?
I am not one to throw out work I’ve put together (by myself or others). When frustrated, I would just take a break from submissions and direct artists to other netlabels.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
Maybe 12 hours a month or so.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
Most of my work goes in to preparing and releasing the works themselves. Organizing and labelling files, uploading them, furnishing explanatory text and so forth.
In what audio format and bitrate did you release your albums?
I started with VBR mp3s, usually 192 kbps, and moved up to as high as 24 bit, 48000 khz flac files.
Why did you choose that format?
The mp3s were for ease of transmission – the higher bitrates reflect faster connection speeds and audiophile listening habits.
Did you zip your files into a package? Or were the albums uploaded as individual files?
I uploaded them as individual files.
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
There is almost always cover art. Release information goes on the release page – as much or as little as is furnished by the artist.
What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
For encoding mp3s, I prefer winLAME. Cover art is processed in GIMP, if at all. If FLACs are involved, I use FLAC frontend.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Internet Archive, plus I have a blog on WordPress with more recent releases.
What do you do to promote your label?
Treetrunk is well-established and pretty much promotes itself.
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 do not, though artists are allowed, if not encouraged, to do so.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites?
Any frustrations regarding this? Reviews are rare and welcome. People tend not to take the time to review netreleases nowadays.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have/did they changed over the years?
I can take a quick look at archive.org, for collection statistics. They definitely peaked in the oughts, but still show a decent audience.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
It’s interesting. I really do very little promotion, so I was always happy that we had such good numbers over the years. One big benefit is that that attracts new submissions and keeps the music fresh.
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 it helps. It provides immediate access to streamable or downloadable file formats.
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 has not been a problem.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
It’s all done free, gratis.
What do you think your label’s legacy might be?
Treetrunk presents a solid body of eclectic, quality experimental work. Right now we have 361 netreleases, including several series (such as “Constant” and “Complex Silence”), lots of fractal/generative work, and a good deal of excellent ambient and drone material.
Do you feel that you are filling a niche that other labels are not?
I think that Treetrunk, as a whole, has a unique and appealing character – musically, it is a bit like a tree a person comes to to lean against and rest for a bit.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
I am a big fan of Bandcamp, and think it offers a viable platform for artists of different levels of experience and ambition.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Yes, indeed. I can only hope that archive.org remains online so all of that hard work can continue to be shared.
Are there too many netlabels?
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
I hope not.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
No, not intentionally.
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?
Netlabels provide the premiere source for cc-oriented podcasts, and other forms of broadcasting and sharing.
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
Yes, there is certainly an evolution, though I feel the process is broad enough and complex enough that I could not possibly describe it here.
Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?