Interview received: November 29 and 30, 2016; March 30, 2017.
What is your name?
Where are you located?
Front Range, Northern Colorado.
Do you save any materials – digital files, emails, physical materials – related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?
I have more interest than time and energy for it. The primary thing is to get the music out, and propagate it to a diversity of platforms.
I recognize that I am my own archivist, but the balance between archiving what has come before and doing new work has to lean heavily toward the new. I have only a small time to do the work, and music is my main thing.
How do you define what is and what is not a netlabel?
My personal definition is that a netlabel is an online distributor of music / sound that is available to anyone without paying. “Netlabel” is a not a good word for this activity, and is often confused for any type of online distribution from small DIY publishers to majors doing it for free. New nomenclature is required to distinguish DIY activity from that of higher profile, commercial ventures. I’m sure a new word will come along when the time is right.
How and when did you first learn about netlabels?
I can’t remember the specific year, it was probably around about 2003. My hometaping / cassette-trading label Vuzh Music had run into problems because people at the time wanted to trade CD-rs because, back then, they viewed them as a superior medium to cassettes (ha ha ha, so much for that shit). Furthermore, no one wanted to hand-write or type letters to send by mail because email was so much more convenient. Trading tapes & letters through the mail was what the cassette underground was all about, so the late nineties and the early zeroes were a rough time because no one wanted to do either of those things. I think it was about 2002 when I got a computer and finally managed to convert much of my catalogue to digital so I could burn CD-rs, but even that didn’t seem to be working out too well. I built the website that became the Vuzh Music netlabel to sell CD-rs. I would have preferred trading, but it seemed like the cassette underground had nearly completely evaporated. There was a site called mp3.com where they allowed you to upload three mp3s of your music (it sounds ludicrous now, doesn’t it? I think later they increased it to five. No wonder they’re not around anymore.) I had dialup internet, and the phone lines in the mountains where I lived were notoriously dodgy. I managed to get a few mp3s up though. That was probably the first digital music I uploaded.
I was active on the early social networking platform LiveJournal, because I was looking for the same kind of communication / community as I’d experienced in the cassette underground. That’s where I first started to hear about netlabels. There were people talking about them on the ambient & experimental music communities on LJ, and specifically I recall music friends I’d met on LJ such as Thomas Park and Chris McDill talking about them. I clearly remember those two planning out their netlabels (Treetrunk and Webbed Hand), McDill was particularly public about his thought process. Wasn’t long before I converted my CD-r label to a netlabel – even though it was pretty hellish uploading that much stuff over VERY SLOW dialup (over lines that were prone to dropping calls).
Do you remember Chris McDill’s thought process about planning out his label? Or any of the points that you remember being important to you or him?
You should probably ask him about that. Although last I heard he’d abandoned the scene. Most of it was written publically on his LJ accounts, but I don’t know whether or not he deleted those, he surely has downloaded archives of them. I remember his enthusiasm more than anything, and his quick burnout. The early Webbed Hand releases were all his own releases under many, many project names, but eventually he started releasing other stuff. I’m sure Mystified was in there, cause those two were really tight.
What was the first netlabel you heard of?
It is really hard to say. There were a lot of Russian ones back then that are no longer active – I can’t recall the names of them. Musica Excentrica was one of them, I think Clinical Archives was in there somewhere.
What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?
I can’t say that any one netlabel inspired me. There are many that I specifically admire, and I admire the movement on the whole, for certain. In the early days I did admire Chris McDill’s energy for promoting Webbed Hand, self-promotion has never been something I’ve had much energy for.
What made you decide to start your own netlabel?
It was the obvious thing to do, really. At the time, I already had a decade worth of music of my own, and several things by other people on my label, and I wanted it to have an audience. Some other people were getting into arrangements with companies like mp3.com, as they evolved into selling CDs, or continuing to pursue the standard model of sending demos to big labels trying to get a contract that way. To some people the whole idea of letting their music be downloadable for free was and is appalling. They have their priorities, and that’s okay for them. I would rather have my music be listened to than be paid for. The occasional gift of money (and other stuff) from listeners is a nice morale boost, but it’s not something I am working toward. I am continually grateful that people listen to the work that I do.
What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?
With physical albums, I had already done it. I’d done cassettes and CD-rs. I found the process of dubbing & making covers kind of tedious, and it was expensive too. It was a confluence of convenience & expense that pushed me toward ditching physical releases.
What is the name of your netlabel?
The main one is Vuzh Music. I’ve done a few others, Dystimbria, Derivative Netlabel and Drone Forest’s archive are the others. All of these are kind of either permanently inactive or currently on hiatus, but all exist as archives. It’s important to me to maintain availability.
Why did you choose the name you chose?
Vuzh Music was the name of my tape label in the 90s, and it carried over. “Vuzh” was a word I heard in a dream.
When did you start your netlabel?
The who.is for vuzhmusic.com says I got it in March of 2003, but for a little bit it was a CD-r label. I’m guessing late ’03 or maybe early ’04 was when I started up with free downloads.
What is the focus of you netlabel?
Vuzh Music releases whatever I like, which ends up being experimental music for lack of a better term. There’s some drone stuff, quasi-ambient, quiet noise, synth music and some beat stuff too. The tag-line for the label’s kind of music is “working-class esoteric abstractia”, which is jokey but sorta correct.
Dystimbria was a project exploring the nexus of ambient and noise, using recycling / resampling as a required method (i.e. each new release had to sample from the prior release).
Derivative is explicitly sample based, with no genre restrictions. The point is to make new music from samples derived from net releases permitting derivative works under Creative Commons, (or material from the public domain.)
Drone Forest is the archive of the work of a single group that I was involved in. It was drone music that operated with the dictum “no rhythm, no melody” although we certainly pushed the boundaries at times. We were a collective that shared sound sources but each worked independently.
Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?
My own stuff is almost always CC BY NC SA. I don’t want someone to use my work to make money without asking and compensating me, and I want credit when someone uses my work. These seem eminently reasonable requests. Otherwise, it doesn’t bother me to be sampled or shared, in fact I like it.
With regard to netlabel activities, however, either the project on the whole has license guidelines or a set license (as with Dystimbria / Derivative, since their entire focus is on derivative work) or in the case of Vuzh Music, when releasing another artist I defer to the artist to set the license, though I always make a case for CC licenses allowing derivative work.
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?
In some cases we are friends, but we’re all comrades. I have released work by people I don’t know well that I received through demos, but a lot of what I release is friends that I’ve invited to release. In most cases I like to promote the work of the artists I release because I admire what they do. They are all trying to get people to listen to their work, just like I am, so it seems logical that when we all boost work that we like. I think it’ll come back around.
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?
With Vuzh Music it was absolutely curated. I rejected many things. Usually I invited artists, but on occasion I had demo submissions I thought were really good. It was all based on what I liked and thought fit with the overall sound of the label.
With Dystimbria and Derivative, if they followed the guidelines, it was released. The guidelines for each project were painstakingly communicated on the websites.
What are your criteria for the music you curate and release?
With Vuzh Music, it was all based on personal taste, wanting to work with certain artists because I like their work and so on. With the other projects I’ve done, like Dystimbria and Deriv I set up some rules and if any artist could meet the requirements, I would release it.
I’m thinking of doing another, smaller project that would be a hybrid netlabel / tape release project. For that it’ll be all invitation again. I think it’s become a bit more important to me to not only involve people I am close to personally, and people whose music I admire, but also to attempt to be a lot more inclusive with regard to gender and race.
Are there any genres that you have never released before that you would love to release on your label or on a future label of yours?
For a while I wanted to release more beat-oriented stuff, but I couldn’t find anyone that was doing anything quite along the lines of what I had in mind, so I abandoned that idea, and decided to attempt to explore that area in my own work.
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?
Tons. Too many to list.
How many albums have you released?
Gosh, you’re going to make me, count aren’t you?
Let’s see, Vuzh Music has 50 net releases and a small handful of physical things.
Dystimbria had 19 releases by 19 artists, which are now archived in four releases (grouped by year) on archive.org.
Derivative Netlabel only made it to four releases (artists found the guidelines too onerous, I guess)
Who are some of your most notable artists?
Hoo boy. “Notable” is one of my trigger terms. I find it exclusionary. I find them all notable, or I wouldn’t have released their work! Notability on the internet, as embodied on sites like Wikipedia is bullshit. If you’re not notable, it’s like a black hole it’s impossible to get out of, you can’t be notable unless you become notable! Woo! I got burned out on the word while trying to write about important people in the cassette underground, people who had big impact on the culture, none of whom are notable, apparently. Notable to whom?
Which are some of your most significant releases?
I’m unsure how to answer this. I hope that all releases have been significant to the artists and the listeners who took the time to attend.
Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?
I do. I can understand that some people find it uncouth. You have to understand, I come from a very DIY background. When I started out no label would put out my stuff, so I made one that would. There’s a lot of precedent for self-releasing on one’s own label. Why not?
What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?
I’m really into sharing cool stuff! I feel like the netlabel community, at least the experimental music wing of it that I am involved in, is really just a bunch of friends saying “hey check out this cool thing!” to each other. And that’s alright by me. There’s LOTS of cool things out there, and I want to do my part in boosting the stuff I like, whether it’s recommending it via Twitter or my blog or email, or by releasing on my netlabel.
What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?
I think the biggest challenge is that it requires a lot of time, and a lot of it is clerical / bureaucratic stuff, making sure ID3 tags are correct, making sure all the info is correct and consistent in every instance that the release shows up, hand-coding web pages, writing descriptions… There’s a lot of “stuff” to do, and it takes away from other pursuits. This is why I’ve decided to take a break for the last couple of years. I’m focusing now on my own music, but I’ll probably come back to releasing other people’s stuff on netlabel. Kinda thinking about starting a new netlabel / tape label hybrid but we’ll see.
Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?
To be honest, it’s pretty disappointing how much resentment there is against free music from certain people who are following the standard pay-model. It’s like they seem to feel we’re taking sales away from them. They seem to think: ‘if only these people weren’t giving away their music, then we’d be rich and famous’ or something. Like we’re crowding ~their~ field. Fuck that attitude. No, there’s plenty of room for everyone to make music and participate in culture, and if you don’t like it, you’re an exclusionist, elitist asshole.
It also bugs me when I get pushback for trying to assert the term “netlabel” as being only the free-release model. Admittedly the term is pretty compromised at this point. There needs to be something to distinguish free-release music from labels who require payment, because these are very different phenomena, with very different motivating factors. A lot of people have agreed that we need new terminology, but no one has come forward with anything that is succinct and descriptive. Sometimes lately I say free-netlabel, but I’m not really committed to that name. I mean, to me a “netlabel” that requires payment is just a standard, normal label with internet distribution. There’s nothing new or special or distinct really, other than that it’s on the internet. It’s just a label.
What keeps you motivated to continue running the netlabel when you are or were feeling frustrated?
I truly don’t know. I have a strong impulse to create new stuff, and a strong urge to share it. I can’t express why those things are, it’s constantly a mystery to me.
How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?
Not too much at present, as I said above most of my netlabel activities are on hiatus. When I was very active there was a lot of time spent on emails, and preparing a release could easily eat up my entire weekend, and several days after would be spend on promotion.
Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?
There is communication with the artist behind the scenes, communicating your vision for the label and how you think the artist would fit in (or not as the case may be). Trying to get artwork from the artist at the proper size to be useful or doing art for them if they need it. Talking about licensing, explaining the options and my opinions about what’s best, while at the same time making clear that it’s their choice.
For releases, it’s pretty standard to double check all the ID3 tags, convert all the files to the proper format, compress the files into a .zip and upload. I hand-code the release pages for my website vuzhmusic.com (the others too, although Derivative Netlabel uses WordPress). At this point I’ve got templates, so I fill in the appropriate information, write a description, find background imagery (often variations of the album art). Then check and double-check that everything is correct. I hate releasing something and finding an error afterward. Finally I put the link on the home page and start promoting.
Why do you choose to hand code your site?
Money. I knew I needed a website, and I am very particular when it comes to that kind of thing, but I couldn’t afford Dreamweaver or whatever was available back then for a WYSIWYG. So I got a book about HTML and figured it out. I had been big into computer programming when I was a kid, so it wasn’t very hard to learn.
In what audio format and bitrate do you release your albums?
It’s changed over the years. I started at 192k, then moved to 320k. Lately, I’ve been using services like Bandcamp and archive.org more often, and it makes more sense to upload uncompressed formats like .aiff for Bandcamp and .FLAC for archive, because the services will derive other formats.
Most of my netlabel music listening comes from downloads in 320k, which sounds perfectly fine to my ears, so I feel comfortable with it in general.
Why did you choose that format?
When I first started in netlabels, I think my computer didn’t do any .mp3 compression higher than about 256k. That choice led to a file that took too long to upload via unreliable dialup connection, so 192k seemed like a good compromise. Later when I had a higher speed connection, and upgraded software, I settled on 320k, because it doesn’t take up too much space on the user’s hard-drive and sounds decent enough. Lately, I’ve been wanting to re-up most of my stuff in uncompressed formats just for archival purposes.
Do you zip your files into a package? Or are the albums uploaded as individual files?
I’ve done both. Originally I preferred individual files because it was easier and more reliable to download/upload it over dialup, but that’s no longer a concern. I much prefer a .zip file both for my own listening and for uploading my own work.
Aside from the audio files, do you include any other types of files or information with the album?
I used to write up some sort of blurb on the website page, and in the latter days of Vuzh Music I tried to be sure to include a .txt file with basic information about the release including the descriptive writing I’d done. Seems like some people value this more than others. In my experience as a consumer of netlabel works, it has occasionally come in handy to have the .txt / .info file for various reasons.
What software programs do you use to run your netlabel? For converting and encoding audio, for metadata, for ftp, for making cover art, etc.
Let’s see. To be honest, iTunes is probably my centerpiece software for conversion, encoding and metadata. It’s worked well for those tasks for years, and only recently have I used other things. Lately, when I want to do conversion without adding new files to my iTunes library, I’ll use MediaHuman Audio Converter, which works very well, and is fast and hassle free, and it’s freeware. I still have to use iTunes to write tags though, I haven’t found a good standalone app that does it in the way that I like.
For FTP I generally use Transmit.
For cover art, I’ve used a lot of things. A lot of work was done on a very old version of Adobe Photoshop, I think it’s like Photoshop 4 or something ridiculous like that. I don’t use that much anymore, because it’s on an old Mac that still boots up OS 9, and I don’t use that computer too much because I hate the mouse! Really, I should just buy a new mouse, because otherwise I still like that old thing, it’s got some good software on it that I never get to use anymore.
More recently, I use the browser based, flash image editor Pixlr a lot for easy stuff, like re-sizing, minor recolorizing etc. It’s free and works really well for most basic stuff. I also have GIMP for the heavy lifting, but I tend to avoid it because it’s such a pain to use, and I can never remember where any of the commands are for the stuff I want to do.
Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?
Most of the files are hosted at my website, as I have a pretty good deal that allows unlimited space & more bandwidth than I’ll ever use with a humble netlabel. I’ve also (when I have time) been backing up at archive.org. I used sonicsquirrel.net for Dystimbria to back up the website initially, but more recently I’ve put a second back up at archive.org. I’ve been strongly considering doing a backup and upgrade of Drone Forest’s work at Bandcamp (most of the stuff is only available on mp3, would like to upgrade to FLAC quality), but I need to discuss it more with the guys.
I’ve really been intending to dive in and get stuff on Free Music Archive, but I haven’t dedicated the time & effort yet… someday.
What do you do to promote your label?
I promote mainly on Twitter, but I also have a mailing list that I use… I often post something to firstname.lastname@example.org and the announce list for microsound. I’ll make a notice on clongclongmoo and make a blog post to promote. I gave Reddit a spin for promotion, but I think people on there don’t seem to actually like discovering new music, so I probably won’t use that again. I should probably discover a good forum or two to use for promotion, but I haven’t bothered with it. I post to Google+, I’ve had a few people discover releases through there. I don’t use Facebook at all, so no promo there. The most effective thing seems to be Twitter, I get lotsa traffic there & when someone retweets or makes mention of a release on their Twitter that’s the absolute best, because it gets the word out to an audience I can’t reach on my own.
Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media – review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?
I don’t do this. It seems like a lot of expense for little reward. Blogs are great because they’re passionate about music and they’ll discover your stuff and write about it, but I never seek it out. I have huge admiration for people that write music reviews for their blogs, it’s basically the same impulse as sharing stuff I like on Twitter or through the netlabel or my blog or whatever.
Traditional media, on the other hand, I have a bit of a problem with it. They are very, very biased in favor of traditional releases. Most publications insist on physical releases to review, but the netlabel phenomenon is a non-object one, it’s inherent in the entire approach. One less object in the world, one more exchange of art outside of Capitalist structure. I can completely empathize with the point that mainstream music publications are getting TONS of music to consider for review (we live in a Golden Age for music!) and so why bother downloading something when 100 CDs and LPs and tapes arrive every day? But if a journalist wants to really cover the world of music, non-object free netlabel culture is one huge omission in the story they’re telling. It reminds me a lot of how home-dubbed tapes were ignored during the cassette underground days. There’s always some barrier to exclude the “little guys” who aren’t “notable” enough to deserve coverage. That doesn’t describe everyone in traditional music journalism, but it certainly describes enough to count. At any rate, I’m mostly so burned out on the elitism that I don’t pursue reviews at all.
The only exception is when I come out with a tape I send one off to Tabs Out, ‘cause they have their heart in the right place – they love music on tape and want other people to discover it. I’d like there to be more people like this but for freely downloadable, non-object music on the internet.
How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?
I expressed a lot of this above. I have had some coverage in blogs and I appreciate it tremendously, I don’t know to what extent it gets people to discover the music I release, but it doesn’t hurt. It makes the artist feel good, feel like someone listened and enjoyed their work enough to write about it. It’s a morale boost.
Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?
In general, yes. I definitely always aim at expanding my audience because I think the music I do, and the music by others that I’ve released on my labels, is very high quality and worthy of attention and respect. It’s a long process finding receptive ears and convincing them to spend time on your work though!
Do you keep track of your download numbers and, if yes, how have they changed over the years?
I used to pay a lot of attention to traffic. I found that the statistics for downloads were really very unreliable, so I paid attention to them, but took them with a grain of salt. I used to give stats a lot more attention than I do now. Lately, I really only check Bandcamp’s stats, and I only do that very occasionally.
How important are download numbers and number of listeners to you?
When I do look into the numbers, I’m sometimes very surprised when something gets a lot of downloads, and sometimes a little frustrated when things don’t do as well. It’s very important to me that the work I do finds listeners, but getting very large numbers is not a huge concern of mine. I generally feel alright about something as long as 50-100 people get into it, and that seems like a pretty do-able goal for my work lately. Sometimes it’s multiples of that, and I don’t really know why certain things take off like that. I guess I am pleased when they do. More listeners is indisputably good.
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 discussed this in the previous answer about music journalism.
It is a HUGE hindrance to being taken seriously. I think non-object music releases provided for free is the most radically accessible culture-building thing happening in my lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a Capitalist-enculturated expectation of a product to go with the music. It’s all about the ‘thing’. Even if the end-user listens to music on Spotify their phone, they still want the CD on their shelves so their grandkids can landfill it when they die. Producing an object in this era with an overabundance of unnecessary objects seems profoundly counter-intuitive to me. There are all these myths built up that people are very invested in about how physical objects are somehow more special, they sound “better” they’re “warm.” Decades of Capitalist marketing has done its trick to convince you that you need to have a thing, and then another thing and another and another. Die with the most toys, you know?
When I was a kid, well before the internet, I loved music, but I was ridiculously poor and couldn’t afford as much as I wanted. Now I’m happy and proud that some person out there who can’t afford to buy stuff can have mine for free with my complete blessing, just click the button and it’s yours.
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 haven’t had a problem with this, as I’ve always tried to be as upfront as possible about what to expect when I release stuff. Also, I am explicit in saying that I claim absolutely no ownership over the music, and if they want to re-release it they have every right to do so.
In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?
I have done some things like the sound art exhibition and concerts I did called Sound Through Barriers, and the Disquiet Junto Denver concert I helped organize with Carl Ritger and Marc Weidenbaum. None of that was about the netlabel work though. The scene in Colorado, especially for those that don’t live in Denver, is pretty tepid, and I don’t have the energy or resources to fight that fight.
How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?
I just pay out of pocket. My income from the pewter foundry for the last 22 years has paid for my musical career.
Counter to expectation, though, I seem to be making more money with music through Bandcamp through voluntary donations using their ingenious pay-what-you-want option than I ever did when I was trying to sell it. It’s always been a money losing option, I don’t do it to make back some investment. I’d be miserable if I had that expectation. I think a lot of people who have that expectation ARE miserable from my experience. Making money from music enough to pay back the investment you put in, it’s an almost insurmountably difficult thing to do. Those who can make a living off of music are very lucky — and I do think a lot of it is pure chance / luck, because there are too many people who work their asses off and never get to that point. In my case, if I can continue to put out the music I want, and people want to listen to it, I’m happy.
What do you think your or your label’s legacy might be?
Gosh, I’m not sure. I know I became a facilitator/instigator of some community discussions, and I’m sure that’s had an impact on how people feel about being involved in DIY music at our level, but I truly don’t know. Occasionally I observe some music or some opinion and think I might have had some influence in that, but I may just be blowing smoke up my own ass. Ultimately we do all influence each other a lot, and since I am so boisterous about sharing my stupid opinions with people that maybe it shifts some other people’s opinions one way or another (perhaps not necessarily toward my own viewpoint).
The word “legacy”, however, implies something that persists after I either die or stop activities. This isn’t something that is terribly important to me. I imagine that my work will be quickly forgotten. I think this is a realistic prediction. I haven’t made enough of an impact on the culture for anyone to devote their precious time and energy to keeping my work in the mind of anyone after I die, and I feel a little discomfort imagining that anyone would. I think music really needs to be a shared activity that resonates in the present, rather than lingers later. Music is most relevant the closer it is to its creation date. The more attention is paid to past works, the less space there is for new works to flourish. Listen with ears forward, I say.
Do you feel that you are filling a niche that other labels were not?
Maybe? There aren’t enough good netlabels releasing consistently good experimental music. I think my focus was unique, but the differences are probably pretty esoteric for an outsider to notice.
What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?
Love it. They’re getting a lot right.
Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?
Everything comes to an end sooner or later. In the meantime, yeah, I’d love more netlabels, more music, more community, hell yeah!!
Do you think there are too many netlabels?
Fuck no! Everyone should have one! Everyone should make music and everyone should have a netlabel and release music they like. That would be awesome.
Will netlabels be obsolete before 2025?
To pin it to a specific date seems pretty arbitrary, but look, netlabels will fade away. It’s certain. I’ve already seen one huge DIY music network become vapor only to later be resurrected in a different form (the tape network). Whether netlabels and tapes persist or go away is probably not all that important in the long term. What’s more important in the long term is that there continues to be a robust DIY music culture that continues to grow and that we all continue to support each other and any new people that join in. As long as people are still musically adventurous in a way that’s accessible to people and disconnected from Capitalist exclusionary greed, then I don’t care if it happens over the internet through netlabels, or by tape or mind-meld (or whatever comes next) or even one-on-one in musky basements somewhere. The medium doesn’t matter.
Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?
I hope I’ve made that pretty clear. Art is a political act, it’s unavoidably so. The choices you make reflect your political and moral values.
I think of doing netlabel work as a benign and friendly community-oriented action, but at the same time deeply rebellious against the Global Capitalist forces that are destroying the planet. Most activities that build community without the members having to buy anything are the same in that regard.
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 love the overlap. I love people integrating my work into theirs, that’s how culture happens. I think there is huge opportunity for more, and I wish the interconnectedness was more prevalent, but it’s always great when it happens.
I think permissively licensed free music is perfect for podcast and podfic producers, I’d love to see involved collaborative efforts between those communities, but just using the music as a resource is one hell of a great start.
I do think of the netlabel underground as having grown out of the mail art underground and cassette culture of the 80s & 90s. It’s not an explicit historical connection, but the impetus is the same: make art! Share it! Dig art by others!
Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?
The history is fuzzy, that’s why projects like this are important. I know people were offering music online beforehand, but it’s my understanding that netlabels in their present form flashed into being when archive.org set it as an archival category. It is a happy accident that this aligned with the popularization of Creative Commons and integration of CC into archive. The rest of the history is personal, so it’s time to start collecting personal histories!
What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?
I’m just looking forward to reading what other people have to say.