Money Matters

Marketing, managers, production, PR, information management, lackies who bring the coffee and secretly resent you so deeply that they routinely gob in your drink and of course the hangers on and followers who make the whole gig roll along – all the perks of a musical corporate adventure.

Self-promotion, mailing lists, endless spamming, cash-strapped production – all the perks of free music, which is rapidly becoming the more popular model of distribution for individual artists (popularity born more of necessity than choice though that may be). Does kind of make the ideal of artist control seem like a less than desirable end point doesn’t it? All the creative freedom in the world doesn’t make it any less tempting a task for a musician to devote years to studying and struggling to understand marketing and distribution systems which is almost always the task they’re faced with if they’ve got any desire to either make a living out of their work or even just to get it out there to a audience that’ll listen.

Net labels are, for now, the obvious mechanism for redressing this balance but even with the best organised and most enthusiastic amongst them it’s still a bit of a fantasy to imagine that they’re capable of filling the void left in the absence of a fully paid up and devoted support team (the price of which runs to millions at the top end of the commercial sector). And that’s no slight on the fine individuals involved, just a depressing observation about how much there is lacking from the free music resource pool which despite having a horde of very talented and very devoted people within it doesn’t have the decades of experience and training that the commercial mainstream can boast.

Still, there are other ways, shortcuts in getting the music out there which circumvent the requirements set in place by traditional labels and media – people having been getting music from the fringes heard for decades but the struggle’s always been an up-hill one and usually it ends up feeding into the commercial sector as they cherry pick off the most successful adherents of the alternative stream. A Magpie like quality which routinely reinforces to most people the fact that the mainstream has the best music and so any other system is resigned to the cultural B-team, money making a monopoly which is near impossible to break down.

Alas there’s unlikely to ever come a time where there’s either the money or the model within free music to simply pay for all of that support and expertise – that’s part of the system’s appeal in many ways, the money that there is goes to those doing the creating and the work around it rather than being pissed away on adjuncts and musically indifferent functionaries. And long may that continue but it does mean that the debate about an alternative path becomes a more central one.

One suggestion that I’d make on the issue is that, taking advantage of the sheer numbers our movement has, there should be some point of organisation, not necessarily a grand portal but at least a job-site style listing of all of those who are willing and capable of assisting labels and artists in getting things done. I know that we have an abundance of artists, writers, musicians (obviously) and people who just know about how the music industry works and who can adapt and contribute their knowledge to the free end of it – so why not bring them all into play? It’d be a fairly easy task to set up some form of social networking site for the free music community and from their to make it easier for anyone with a project to enlist the relevant people, the technical side I could even do myself but for now the concept is simply a discussion piece, so let’s see if there’s any interest in discussing it… [DO]

Netlabelism Written by:

38 Comments

  1. January 8, 2011
    Reply

    Nice!
    I’d be happy to contribute to this idea.

  2. January 8, 2011
    Reply

    From the start, blocSonic has been more than a netlabel. I’ve always foreseen expanding it to incorporate more interactive features which would make it a portal of sorts. I still intend on doing so. I’m in the process of upgrading blocSonic to the latest version of the web framework I use and then I’ll be in a position to expand it. I see what you’re talking about as being a fairly straight forward addition to make. I’d love to make it happen this year. Let’s take some time in the coming months to discuss it further.

    • September 3, 2011
      Reply

      With all these silly wbiesets, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

  3. January 8, 2011
    Reply

    Before posting my own view on this topic, I’d like to comment on a couple of the sentences you used:

    1. “Self-promotion, mailing lists, endless spamming, cash-strapped production – all the perks of free music, which is rapidly becoming the more popular model of distribution for individual artists”

    These are not at all ‘perks of free music’. These are perks related to the _promotion_ of music. It is a choice of the individual to use none, any or all of the above methods to promote their music. Whether one chooses to promote their music in this way or not is a matter of temperament and ambition. However, these methods can not be generalised as _the_ methods of the free music movement (if such a thing exists).

    2. “All the creative freedom in the world doesn’t make it any less tempting a task for a musician to devote years to studying and struggling to understand marketing and distribution systems which is almost always the task they’re faced with if they’ve got any desire to either make a living out of their work or even just to get it out there to a audience that’ll listen.”

    Making a living out of one’s music is very different than trying to establish an audience base for one’s music. In the case one has to live off their music, one has to somehow sell concrete parts of their art, be it records, individual sound files, sample libraries, sound design works or gigs. In this case, we are not talking anymore about free music, because the musical result is associated with a monetary token. The distribution of music then requires the exchange of this token and is hence no longer free. The attraction of an audience to one’s musical works on the other hand can be achieved in both free and non-free ways. Again, here’s where temperament and ambition come into play.

    3. “And that’s no slight on the fine individuals involved, just a depressing observation about how much there is lacking from the free music resource pool which despite having a horde of very talented and very devoted people within it doesn’t have the decades of experience and training that the commercial mainstream can boast.”

    I think this is a very common misconception within the netlabel-related scene. Netlabels are _not_ here as an alternative to the commercial model. They are _not_ here to substitute the commercial paradigm of music distribution. This is not what netlabels should aim to do, because the commerce of music is what feeds talented musicians, indie labels and struggling independent sound engineers trying to make a living. Unfortunately, apart from these people, there is a huge flow of money towards the mainstream music machine, the Goliaths of the music industry. This last flow is what you describe as the commercial mainstream and if people are unhappy about it and they want to change it they have to come up with ideas like those you mention in your last paragraph. But I repeat, and cannot stress this enough, that this has _nothing_ to do with the free music / netlabel scene. What you are talking about is an alternative _commercial_ model, because only commerce can bring income to musicians pockets.

    Now that these points are out of the way, let me briefly state my beliefs on the matter. As I mentioned above, on the musician side there are two decisive factors that play a role in the distribution of music: temperament and ambition. Regardless of the temperament, which is almost impossible to change, I think that artists should really reflect upon what their ambitions are. Questions one can pose to oneself are: “Do I want to live off my music? If yes, to what extent (full-time/part-time occupation)? What routes am I willing to follow in order to accomplish my goals? If I am not interested in monetary profit, what do I want to achieve with my music (fame, personal satisfaction, joy of sharing with friends)?”. After that, people in the promotion side of any musical endeavor should reflect upon what their role is. A good strategy would be to _explicitly_ answer the aforementioned questions in their websites’ ‘about’ section, so that artists and audience will know what the deal is. This will help artists to decide if a promotion route is the right platform for their music. This can be judged on a temporary or a permanent basis, depending on what the artist wants to achieve at each point in time.

    Finally, and probably most importantly, the audience has to be educated regarding the marketing and distribution systems available. This is the hardest part, because music is most widely considered solely as a leisure activity. The truth is that every time one goes to a record store cashier’s desk or hits the pay button, they are commiting a ‘political’ act: they are deciding to support someone they most probably don’t know. Although, this may seem perfectly fine, since people buy the music, not the personality of the people involved in its production, on a mass scale it has further implications of the kind “big fish eats small fish”.

    And here’s the important part: people who are a little more interested about what they put into their ears and where it comes from will try and weigh the pros and cons before buying. This will lead to either buying or not buying a record and this as I explained above is in a sense a ‘political’ act. Enter netlabels: netlabels are (supposed to be) the platform where acquiring a piece of music is _not_ a political act! Changing them to some kind of artist management and promotion system based on money leads to them losing this property and becoming another cog of the commercial machine. Support of the artist in the netlabel scene is (or should be) possible only in on a one-to-one basis between artist and listener. It is this property of non-policy that makes the netlabel scene more personal and beautiful and that’s what people should take advantage of. One would argue that this is also what makes the netlabel scene chaotic, but isn’t chaos also so beautiful?

    Further reading: check the posting titled “The politics of netlabel music” here:
    http://www.memoryformat.net/blog.php

  4. January 8, 2011
    Reply

    Hello.

    First of all sorry for my English.

    The idea of creating of something like centralized hubs is a current trend in netaudio community. Many people (and me too – http://mixgalaxyrecords.com/2010/11/03/silent_world_of_netlabels/) have been discussing it for quite while.

    My two cents:

    1) A lot of netaudio enthusiasts and netlabel owners still don’t want to realize that in fact we compete with commercial industry. It’s always a competition from both listeners and artists points of view. Artists choose between commercial indie labels and netlabels (let’s forget about majors here) as distributors and promoters of their material, while listeners just choose what to listen to. So if we want to move further we should face the truth – it is the competition.

    2) Whatever concept you create, it should look like: “Hey, we are as big and cool as those guys who have money”. The idea of just a permanent enjoying the free music is a nonsense. Free music is still associated with loosers music. In 2011 every third human being is a musician (I’m joking, but you get the point I hope). There are too many artists who try to get out of their bedrooms/basements and they all produce “free music”. If labels give em a chance they would make a deal with a commercial label without any doubts – your statement about “necessity than choice” is so true. So everyone around knows that all the best folks go to commercial industry, that’s why there are just a few people really want to dig deep into totally unorganised free music realm with millions of nobody-knows-bands. Once again: we do need a big cool shining grand portal with bells and whistles rather than another one site with a few netlabel catalogs. Cause today there are soundcloud and last.fm who already monopolised a function of social networks with free music (where unknown artists listen to each other tracks).

    3) Keeping in mind all above mentioned, I’m gonna to make a conclusion: it should be a big portal like Beatport, but for netlabels. Probably it should be money involved project with a proper monetize scheme. Otherwise the owners loose all motivations. Job-list styles? People who know how the industry works? It won’t help. Trust me. Music industry works because of money. Money matters 🙂

    4) But if you would like to hear a proper idea for your portal, I have one. What you can really do – is to try to envolve indie film directors. There a lot of ’em too, they need music for their projects, and they can make videoclips (one of the most important promotional ways). If we gather together – that could be something!

    Again, sorry for my English.

    Sincerely,
    Alexander Chereshnev, curator of Mixgalaxy Records netlabel.

  5. January 8, 2011
    Reply

    Some great commentary here. In my view most of the netlabel underground should be viewed completely separately from the commercial world because of a commitment to ‘free’ culture. It’s actually possible to make & distribute music with minimal investment. Most of the artists whom I know view this as an acceptable loss, and expect no financial gain from their music.

    Regarding the final idea of a centralized hub for netlabel artists, I see that Alexander of Mixgalaxy plugged his blog post, which I recommend reading. I also have a blog post that brings up the same idea: http://www.vuzhmusic.com/blog/2010/11/03/response-to-silent-world-of-netlabels/

  6. dylan
    January 8, 2011
    Reply

    Obviously a fair bit for me to go through already but I’ll try to touch on everything I can…

    @ Michael

    Keep me up to date with what’s going on at blocSonic, I’m still interested in contributing in any way I can and if you think something like this could be set up there I’m all for it.

    @ Stefanos

    “These are not at all ‘perks of free music’. These are perks related to the _promotion_ of music. It is a choice of the individual to use none, any or all of the above methods to promote their music. Whether one chooses to promote their music in this way or not is a matter of temperament and ambition. However, these methods can not be generalised as _the_ methods of the free music movement (if such a thing exists).”

    Obviously it’s not an absolute list of everything an individual artist can do but it is indicative of the grind it can be to promote music without any directly supportive network. I don’t think it’s unfair to broadly define them as the methods of free music because an awful lot of artists (not to mention writers, promoters et al) would recognise them as facets of their work and as I make no claim to talk for anyone I don’t see why those who choose not to use any of those routes would have any objection to the statement (it’s an opinion piece, not gospel truth). As to the temperament/ambition point, well, I work from the very basic assumption that musicians want to promote their music, if they don’t then obviously the model I put forward may be of limited interest to them, such is life.

    “Making a living out of one’s music is very different than trying to establish an audience base for one’s music. In the case one has to live off their music, one has to somehow sell concrete parts of their art, be it records, individual sound files, sample libraries, sound design works or gigs. In this case, we are not talking anymore about free music, because the musical result is associated with a monetary token. The distribution of music then requires the exchange of this token and is hence no longer free. The attraction of an audience to one’s musical works on the other hand can be achieved in both free and non-free ways. Again, here’s where temperament and ambition come into play.”

    We all (unless blessed by an infinite pool of cash) have to earn a living, as a writer myself and having been involved with plenty of musicians and groups I’m fairly sure that, given the choice, the vast majority would choose to support themselves through their art. And we live within in a Capitalist system, much as I wish it weren’t so, so the most I can expect/hope of any artist is that they ensure that their creative product is free at the point of distribution, to begrudge them a structure beyond that which allows them to pay their rent without working in the local supermarket is impractical, not to mention overly idealistic. Pending the revolution we all have to eat, that’s not a matter of temperament or ambition, it’s a matter of fact and I fully encourage anyone for whom it’s possible to earn that living out of their passion. Whether that leaves the music ‘free’ in an artistic/cultural sense is a matter for individual experience, but it’s something of a side argument so I won’t delve into it now.

    “I think this is a very common misconception within the netlabel-related scene. Netlabels are _not_ here as an alternative to the commercial model. They are _not_ here to substitute the commercial paradigm of music distribution. This is not what netlabels should aim to do, because the commerce of music is what feeds talented musicians, indie labels and struggling independent sound engineers trying to make a living. Unfortunately, apart from these people, there is a huge flow of money towards the mainstream music machine, the Goliaths of the music industry. This last flow is what you describe as the commercial mainstream and if people are unhappy about it and they want to change it they have to come up with ideas like those you mention in your last paragraph. But I repeat, and cannot stress this enough, that this has _nothing_ to do with the free music / netlabel scene. What you are talking about is an alternative _commercial_ model, because only commerce can bring income to musicians pockets.”

    I’d say that’s very much a matter of opinion. Evidently you have a strictly defined notion of what the net label movement should be, mine obviously differs in that I view the free distribution of the creative product as the main point and accept the structures surrounding that act as a secondary issue to the movement. Of course it would be ideal if music (and all creative forms) wasn’t reliant upon commerce and the market but as we’re all stuck in this system I’d rather accept compromise on the path to a better system than to advocate an unlikely model which sets cultural products out as the province of the time and cash rich who can indulge a hobby which offers no compensation, albeit whilst staying true to rigidly defined dogma. That said, though, neither of us has the right to define what the net label movement is or should be, no one person can dictate such things.

    “Now that these points are out of the way, let me briefly state my beliefs on the matter. As I mentioned above, on the musician side there are two decisive factors that play a role in the distribution of music: temperament and ambition. Regardless of the temperament, which is almost impossible to change, I think that artists should really reflect upon what their ambitions are. Questions one can pose to oneself are: “Do I want to live off my music? If yes, to what extent (full-time/part-time occupation)? What routes am I willing to follow in order to accomplish my goals? If I am not interested in monetary profit, what do I want to achieve with my music (fame, personal satisfaction, joy of sharing with friends)?”. After that, people in the promotion side of any musical endeavor should reflect upon what their role is. A good strategy would be to _explicitly_ answer the aforementioned questions in their websites’ ‘about’ section, so that artists and audience will know what the deal is. This will help artists to decide if a promotion route is the right platform for their music. This can be judged on a temporary or a permanent basis, depending on what the artist wants to achieve at each point in time.”

    Surely that’s already the case though? Every artist knows what they want to achieve with any particular release and a simple e-mail to any net label would tell them whether that route fits their requirements, it’s hardly a point which needs militant codifying.

    “Finally, and probably most importantly, the audience has to be educated regarding the marketing and distribution systems available. This is the hardest part, because music is most widely considered solely as a leisure activity. The truth is that every time one goes to a record store cashier’s desk or hits the pay button, they are commiting a ‘political’ act: they are deciding to support someone they most probably don’t know. Although, this may seem perfectly fine, since people buy the music, not the personality of the people involved in its production, on a mass scale it has further implications of the kind “big fish eats small fish”.

    And here’s the important part: people who are a little more interested about what they put into their ears and where it comes from will try and weigh the pros and cons before buying. This will lead to either buying or not buying a record and this as I explained above is in a sense a ‘political’ act. Enter netlabels: netlabels are (supposed to be) the platform where acquiring a piece of music is _not_ a political act! Changing them to some kind of artist management and promotion system based on money leads to them losing this property and becoming another cog of the commercial machine. Support of the artist in the netlabel scene is (or should be) possible only in on a one-to-one basis between artist and listener. It is this property of non-policy that makes the netlabel scene more personal and beautiful and that’s what people should take advantage of. One would argue that this is also what makes the netlabel scene chaotic, but isn’t chaos also so beautiful?”

    Every act is a political act but the net label movement isn’t there to serve your political consciousness, as I mentioned earlier we obviously both have different perceptions of what the movement is and could be but neither of us has absolute right to assert our views. That said I don’t by any stretch want the net label movement to become a commercial entity, I want artists to have access to the resources they require to do what they want and my suggestion of a skill sharing site doesn’t even implicitly involve financial rewards for anyone. If you have no interest in making money from your music, in whatever form, you may still want someone to design an album cover, or sample an instrument, or write a blurb, or design a site, or just set up a gig for the fun of it. Whilst my article was evidently aimed more at those who do wish to make some form of living from their music I hope that you don’t view me as an absolutist advocate of a commercial model, I just want to ensure that anyone who makes music and lets other people hear it for free has access to everything they need.

    @ Alexander

    I tentatively agree with most of that, there is real competition for the attention of listeners and our having a point for entry for new arrivals to free music which could compete with those hubs which exclusively tout mainstream and commercial music would be great. My only issue is that too many people have already tried to do it – off the top of my head I can think of at least half a dozen sites which aspire to being a major way of getting both the music and the ideal behind it out there as central hubs – and to be honest none of them are massively successful which in my opinion often boils down to the fragmentation of talent and drive that’s taking place. If a handful of the most active and involved people in this scene worked together to do something I’ve no doubt that it’d at least go further than any previous attempt has. Whether that requires a business or just a collective I don’t know, after all, we have Jamendo which has spent vast amounts of money to get not very far so there’s no certainty there, although whether that’s a matter of management, luck or public disinterest I’m not sure.

    @ C. Reider

    I agree, most artists don’t expect any financial gain from what they do and that’s all to their credit but I still believe that making music, if you’re truly involved in it, merits the space and the opportunity to devote yourself. If nothing else our movement should offer the option for artists to seek some form of living out of it rather than demanding that they either flog themselves to the traditional music industry or accept that their greatest passion can never be more than a side-lined hobby to the demands of real life.

    The ‘free’ culture is defined and evolved by it’s community, it’s not an ideology which demands complete adherence on entry and it’s risky path to take when you start dictating what is and isn’t allowed for those who primarily just want to put their music somewhere where anyone can listen to it.

    —-

    Aaaaanyway, that was probably longer than the article itself but interesting nonetheless and now I have to go and start work on the next feature 😉

  7. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @dylan

    I hadn’t realized that it was you who wrote this piece. Yeah, part of the site update is the ability to have participating authors, such as yourself. I’ll definitely be in touch when all is in place.

  8. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @ dylan & Alexander: it is obvious from your posts that you assume the average musician in the netlabel scene as someone who is pursuing the average musician dream: contract, tour, popularity, stardom. From my experience, and other people like C.Reider in his blog seem to agree with me, the average musician in the netlabel circuit is nothing like that. It is usually people who have another source of income and view their music activities as a “hobby”. I put the word “hobby” in quotation marks because it is not just a leisure activity: for the majority of these people making music and sharing it is itself a _necessity_ because that’s what their temperament tells them to do.

    I believe that people who are interested in making a living out of their music should in general avoid using netlabels as their permanent promotion route (one-offs might be profitable for them in the sense of advertisement for their commercial releases). If one accepts this premise, then making a side-organisation that complements the function of netlabels by providing income sources to artists, like the one you are discussing, is simply moot, because the artist who are involved are usually not interested in money.

    In short: if someone wants to make money out of their newest album, I don’t see why they should beat around the bush by releasing it for free and then trying to find money elsewhere. They should release on a commercial label, self-release or put on Jamendo, Magnatunes or some other store.

    The problem with these schemes is that the revenue is _not even close_ to being enough for rent. I know several artists signed on small indie labels. _None_ of them can make a living out of their releases, and they all are somewhat prolific in their output. They all rely on secondary sources of income. It is _these_ people that the realization of your suggestions would help. But this is beyond the realm of netaudio, as it is currently defined.

    Finally, a suggestion that may indirectly help further discussion is one of terminology. Since the netlabel scene has historically originated from the demoscene and the tape exchange scene, both of which were not associated with commerce and only with exchange and free sharing, I believe that the word ‘netlabel’ should be reserved for organisations sharing these purposes _only_. Organisations with other goals, such as the financial support of artists, should be labeled by some other term.

    @ C. Reider: Great blog! I share many of your views. Let’s keep in touch.

    • January 11, 2011
      Reply

      @Stefanos Kourtis

      No, it’s not about money and stardom. Average modern artists are sceptical enough.

      It’s about distribution and buzz. Commercial labels still win because of billions of illegal free downloads.

      • January 12, 2011
        Reply

        @ Alexander: when I said ‘stardom’ I didn’t mean it literally. In the music scene’s I’ve been involved in this would mean what you describe as buzz. The problem with the reasoning you present is that it is in terms of the commercial model again. There should be no distribution or buzz issues in the netlabel scene anyway. In the netlabel scene instead of distribution there should be _sharing_ and instead of buzz there should be _communication_. I think any techniques that come from the commercial label world should be scrutinized for compatibility with the spirit of netaudio before being adopted by a netlabel.

        Note that I am not ruling out the possibility of netlabels supporting professionals. I’m just saying that is not / should not their purpose.

        • January 14, 2011
          Reply

          @Stefanos

          With all the respect, your conclusions are based on a wrong statement, i.e. “average netaudio artists just want to share their music and nothing more”.

          Yes, there are a lot of artists, let’s say ‘without any ambitions’, but as Dylan said: for many others it’s a necessity rather than choice. There are thousnads of young and ambitious artists who want buzz, feedback etc, and not just a possibility of sharing (which btw have always been for them even before the born of netaudio movement).

          I believe that they deserve a chance, while enthusiasts like you can always find free music you like with or without those grand portals and wider-distribution channels I’ve mentioned above.

    • January 12, 2011
      Reply

      @ Stefanos Kourtis wrote “Finally, a suggestion that may indirectly help further discussion is one of terminology. Since the netlabel scene has historically originated from the demoscene and the tape exchange scene, both of which were not associated with commerce and only with exchange and free sharing, I believe that the word ‘netlabel’ should be reserved for organisations sharing these purposes _only_. Organisations with other goals, such as the financial support of artists, should be labeled by some other term.”

      AGREED!!!!!! Netlabels are netlabels. If someone wants to charge then call it digilabels or something like that.

  9. dylan
    January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @ Stefanos

    ” If you have no interest in making money from your music, in whatever form, you may still want someone to design an album cover, or sample an instrument, or write a blurb, or design a site, or just set up a gig for the fun of it. ”

    You seem to be judging the idea as a strictly commercial one whilst I harbour no such assumptions. But you’re quite right, the netaudio scene is currently unable to provide a living for anyone but that’s not to say that paths which offer greater creative, practical and financial freedom to artists shouldn’t be explored and developed under its aegis.

    And again, we evidently differ on what the net label movement could/should entail and I take your point on the differing terminology but again it’s not a matter for either of us to judge. This is a vast movement with many different view points, no one discussion can dictate the boundaries of the rest and only the actual evolution of the scene will show what the terms actually end up meaning. Either of us attempting to assert our subjective model as *the* model is a fairly pointless conceptual exercise, as this little debate alone has shown there is no real consensus to be found – the movement will ultimately dictate what the movement will be and the best anyone can do is to put forward their ideas and hope that they’re valid enough to hold influence. The beautiful chaos of the scene which you noted earlier doesn’t need and won’t indulge absolutist edicts on what it should be.

    e2a: Despite the obvious disagreements I’m genuinely glad to see debate going on, so thanks to all who’ve replied to the original article for getting involved.

  10. […] published at Netlabelism.com where it’s well worth reading the comments to see some opposing views on the net label […]

  11. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    there’s a big mistake about this thing called “netaudio- / netlabel-movement” which can be observed already here in this netlabelism-blog.
    “netlabelism / netaudio” pretends there’s a kind of homogeneity or similarity in the musical output which there isn’t.
    just have a look at the genres in the menu on top of this site which are all sorts of electronic music.
    on the other hand you have very popular netlabels (by definition: digital, creative commons licensed music for free download) that have nothing to do with electronics.
    eg. http://www.archive.org/details/tornfleshrecords have loads of output and a pretty nice numbers of downloads… is there any place for them here @ netlabelism? no, i don’t think they’d even appreciate that…
    take http://www.shskh.com/www/ who’re playing in a totally different league – there’s really good music from “real musicians” on that label, but it won’t fit @ netlabelism, would it?
    not to speak abou phenomenons like clinicalarchives 🙂

    the mistake made here is that the point of view is limited to a special kind of popular music and netlabelism is much more [even if the netlabelism-blog doesn’t reflect this].
    the former netaudio-movement may have roots in the demoscene, but loads of the cc-music nowadays isn’t that electronic.

    @ C.Reider: are you aware of the implications of the term “free culture”?
    i mean things like: http://freedomdefined.org/Licenses/NC
    is anyone here using a free operating system?
    🙂

    • dylan
      January 12, 2011
      Reply

      Just as a side note, when I signed up to write for Netlabelism I wasn’t handed any remit on what to cover, admittedly I’m more here for articles than reviews but if I chose to cover some releases I wouldn’t feel any obligation to limit myself to certain genres. I’m guessing it’s a matter of the personal tastes of those involved which has dictated the coverage so far, so if you want to see different stuff you just need to recommend more writers to contribute, or contribute yourself.

  12. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @ dylan: I hope I haven’t come off as trying to force my opinion into other peoples heads. As you said, my view is one of the many in this scene. I’m only trying to put my thoughts out there and this seemed like a nice opportunity to do so, since discussion has been spurred by your article.

    That said, I’m convinced through experience that my statements coincide with the opinion of a large portion of the artists involved in the scene. That’s why I think it’s worthwhile sharing.

    Also, I didn’t just say that the netaudio scene is unable to provide a living for musicians, but also that even the small indie commercial scenes cannot achieve that and that is in my opinion a much bigger and more complicated problem than the promotional ‘isolation’ of netlabels. That is why I tend to treat them as individual issues and that’s also why I focused mainly on the commercial side of your proposals. I think that the issues of the promotion of free music via effective free promotion schemes and of the public awareness of the existence of free music are slowly but steadily being tackled. Proof: netlabelism.com.

    Of course a joint action for solving both the indie scene and the free music / netlabel scene problems may be attempted and I’d be happy to participate in its development, although I have no interest in trying to secure income for professional artists.

  13. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @Stefanos Kourtis

    You are making one hell of a lot of sense. I agree.

    @Martin

    I don’t agree with the sky is falling tone in that article. CC is a perfectly workable alternative for now, it offers the variety of options that netlabel artists want, and it is instantly recognizable as being what it is. It’s also completely in the control of the artist, who can change the license at any time, or even dissolve it and choose to copyright instead. All anyone has to do is ask the owner of the license.
    – I don’t use a free operating system, I use a Mac. I do find appeal in free operating systems, but I don’t think it’s hypocritical to be using a Mac. I don’t expect anyone to become an ascetic or hermetic. Just because I am committed to making my music available for free doesn’t mean I’m ready to join a hippie commune and barter for necessities.

    @dylan

    I dropped all expectations of making money from my music because I wish to concentrate on the creative side of my work rather than worry about meeting sales or flogging a particular product. Promoting releases is still no fun, I don’t like the salesmanship aspect of it. In my opinion, the best promotion is to become an active, approachable and thoughtfully engaged member of the community.

    Perhaps what some of you are dreaming of is a patron of the arts type of benefactor. Maybe someday one of us will win the lottery and sponsor some netlabel peeps. I’m not holding my breath, but heck, it could happen.

  14. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    Okay, more interesting points keep coming up.

    @ all: I think C. Reider has summed it all up in just a phrase: “In my opinion, the best promotion is to become an active, approachable and thoughtfully engaged member of the community. “. Although the sense of community may be a little vague in this context, this is exactly why netlabels offer a unique way to share music. It is the _personal_ factor that makes this scene different than the commercial one and worthwhile for people like myself to invest time into. The result in the end will hopefully be networks of acquaintances with common enthusiasm for the same kinds of music. Why the netlabel model works better than people sharing music individually is something I don’t want to elaborate on here, since it requires space I don’t want to take up.

    On the other hand you have the _impersonal_ way of spamming, endless promo-sending, pretentious third person bios listing one’s (sometimes bloated or even imaginary) achievements in order to attract publicity and so on. This is way too business like to me, even if it’s non-profit. I used to do this too because I thought this was the only way to attract attention to the artists my netlabel represents but now I see that this is not the case and also that it brings wrong kinds of publicity (like ‘hip’ magazines trying to sell the next ‘revolution’ to their poodle-patting couch-dwellers).

    I am happy to say that I have now reached a point where only the recommendations coming from friends or acquaintances whose musical taste I trust is enough for my listening needs. I mostly listen to awesome music made and shared freely by friends. Take a minute and reread the previous sentence and try to imagine the ramifications this would have if done massively. I try to share the music I like in my free time. This is what I like: going out of my way to promote good music by people who make it just for the heck of it, on their free time.

    Also, as a netlabel manager, I don’t want to browse through a database of artists or designers and just pick the ones I like to work with, like browsing a catalog of computer parts. I can’t help thinking that the need of such ‘yellow pages’ projects is sparked by people’s impatience. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the whole process from concept to musical product is one that takes _time_ to become mature flourish and I’m sad to say that most people involved are not aware of that. I like _discovering_ new artists, this is what makes it a _creative_ process and this in turn is what makes running a netlabel _enjoyable_. It’s about trying new things without fear of bankruptcy, trying to come up with fresh stuff and share it with the world. And then see other people do the same. This is where the _joy_ and the _fun_ is and I can’t help thinking that the insertion of any kind of ‘profit’ into this process will suck all the life out of it. What I’d like to see is new things that empower people to go further while maintaining the free and personal character I described.

    @ martin: I agree with you on your comment about the existence of a movement (I used the word ‘chaos’ above…) . however, there is a certain thing in common between almost all netlabels and that is the distribution model. everything else may vary greatly, but all netlabels offer primarily free downloadable audio files. this is valid regardless of the music style or the promotion scheme of each netlabel. I find the comment regarding free culture slightly irrelevant, since it encompasses a huge variety of aspects apart from music, which is the topic here. Regarding the CC licences, I’ve been using the by-nd licence since 2005 and I don’t see why anyone who feels limited by nc can’t choose a different cc licence.

  15. January 9, 2011
    Reply

    @ c. reider: i didn’t mean to agree with that statement – that was just about the terminology of “free culture”. well, get a good read about that here: http://www.free-culture.cc/freecontent/ [larry lessig]
    btw. even creativecommons.org itself considers NC-licenses to be “non-free” , eg.beautifully illustrated in this freedomslicense-generator: http://labs.creativecommons.org/demos/freedomslicense/
    and regarding your mac vs. free operating systems: i don’t think you must become vegan to really be able to enjoy free culture 🙂

    @ stefanos: yes, i liked the “chaos”-metaphor in your other comment and i do enjoy this chaos on a daily basis. i think what is absolutely stunning about this “scene” is the kind of respect for each other even when musical genres are out of place.
    this link about “free culture” / NC-licensing being “bad” should only illustrate there’s another side on the scale of netaudio vs. commercial-interests.
    in my opinion netaudio has to be non-commercial.
    anything else might be something interesting but not “netaudio”.

  16. January 11, 2011
    Reply

    For me, I am a huge proponent of the free netlabel scene. And when I mean free, I mean FREE. No money, email addresses, tweets or Facebook likes should be required.

    Though the free netlabel scene may be looked down upon by some as mentioned earlier, I could care less. There are countless great musicians who provide their music to me and many others with no strings attached. All they ask is that the listeners enjoy it. Maybe it’s my advanced age, but caring what Joe College thinks about the netlabel scene is the least of my worries.

    I also believe as it has been mentioned above that the netlabel scene should be divorced from commercial labels. If one wishes to try and make some money from their music, go for it. I’ve got no problem with that. There are plenty of small digital labels out there for you to choose from. You can even sell your work on Bandcamp or other sites. But, for the love of god, please don’t try to bring money into the netlabel scene. It’s been money free for so long now and it should remain that way! There are other avenues to pursue if you want to earn money from your music.

    There are two reasons why I embrace the netlabel scene. First and foremost, I know the artists and netlabel curators are in it for love, absolute love for the music. Sure, a commercial artist does it for love, but money is always factor and could cloud their motives. The other is that I simply cannot afford to buy all I want to. Seriously, I’d go broke.

  17. January 11, 2011
    Reply

    I am not eager on this particular morning to make too many bold statements about netlabels,
    commercial music, free music, and the desire of worthy performers to make music. I am all for musicians who earn a living and philosophers who imagine what music can be.

    I can only say that I think it is a positive thing to share music to people who will listen to it, use it in on-line videos, and use it in computer games. I do not think that sharing threatens to replace
    the commercial record industry. I do not think sharing music fits into a generic “movement”. I simply believe that, for me, and others, it is good to share.

    I think that sharing may change the way we experience some parts of “music culture”. Music need not be a passive experience of buying and listening only, but can be an experience of listening shared work and making shared work.

    This is not a new idea, though, or one invented by netlabels. Sharing existed before recorded music. Sharing will exist after netlabels no longer exist.

    If there is a change it is simply this–netlabels help some of us find a common voice–
    and that voice says “it’s good to share”.

  18. January 11, 2011
    Reply

    I was thinking about what this article was about and I feel it was geared more to a “maybe” paid site that would assist netlabel artists and/or labels to promote their work. If that is correct, I’d probably ignore it, however, that being said, if this paid site could bring more listeners to the netlabel world, than that’s okay with me.

    • January 12, 2011
      Reply

      That said as a netlabel enthusiast I wouldn’t pay attention to this service or would I use it.

  19. dylan
    January 12, 2011
    Reply

    ‘I was thinking about what this article was about and I feel it was geared more to a “maybe” paid site that would assist netlabel artists and/or labels to promote their work. If that is correct, I’d probably ignore it, however, that being said, if this paid site could bring more listeners to the netlabel world, than that’s okay with me.’

    The original idea had no real profit element to it, my assumption was that anyone contributing their skills or seeking assistance with a project would be doing it on a wholly voluntary basis. If, however, an artist was interested in doing something which might make money (gigs, physical copies of their freely downloadable albums etc.) then that’d be fine too – either way it’s entirely up to those involved, the site in itself wouldn’t advocate or promote a commercial model. Indeed most of the uses I can see for it would fit in perfectly with the ideas of those who’re strongly anti-commercial, they’d simply offer support to musicians and netaudio advocates who’re struggling with an aspect of what they’re doing (arranging a gig, making cover art, getting listeners etc.).

    I understand that there may be a preference for a more organic exploration over such centralised and relatively impersonal systems of networking but I do feel that that’s a personal preference and not a reliable absolute. I’ve certainly come across a fair few musicians whom that path has failed to some degree, people who would love to collaborate in their work, both musically and generally, but who feel isolated and unable to do so. Not everyone will manage to find the right people to work with by chance, offering up another resource for them to use seems only logical. After all, everyone wants as many people as possible to hear their music but not everyone wants to, or is capable of, getting it out there themselves (be it organically or through the more mechanistic methods)

    Anyway, there’s obviously a fair few points which I could deal with here but as I’m at work I’m going to have to cherry pick a few to quickly cover. First off let me re-iterate my own ideas of the free music movement which, for me, has two major foundations – the first being that as much music as possible should be freely available to as many people as possible and the second being that artists should have as many options about what they do with and around their music as possible. Ensuring that there are possible ways of making money is part of that, I don’t advocate that as an essential part of the scene’s evolution or suggest that it’s an issue to *all* musicians but for those who have an interest in that direction I want the option of doing it under a freely shared framework to be there. Rather than drawing an arbitrary line which demands that, whilst an artist may want to offer their albums for free download they should be shunted to a different ‘scene’ if their ambitions go beyond that in any way. Opening up more than one path for independent and net label artists doesn’t diminish any of the other paths – there are after all already plenty of labels about who arrange gigs or offer physical copies of releases without it having any effect on their core drive to offer up free music.

    I’d also say that introducing this limited, tangental avenue for profit doesn’t equate to the free music movement morphing into the commercial one. Our drives remain completely different, just because I’d like to think that an artist could profit in some way from their work it doesn’t mean that I’d want those involved in labels, or the scene in general to start making their own motivations commercial ones and I don’t think anyone would do so anyway because, as has been said, it’s just not in the nature of the scene to do so. Again though, every creator (not just musicians) has the right to explore whatever paths they see fit and as long as their core creations are still available for free to anyone who wants to indulge them I wouldn’t want them to be barred from the movement for doing so.

    As to emulating the promotional methods of the commercial sector, again, it could never and should never be a wholesale act. There’s a reason why the commercial sector spends millions on advertising and promotion, it’s that, quite often, the music needs that artificial image to get listeners – I firmly believe that the best of free music needs no such constructs to be recognised as good. So when I suggest that people with the knowledge to do so aid in the promotion of any given album it’s on the expectation that they really want to and that it’ll be a voluntary (or collective) act – promoting the music for love, not money but not shying away from using those promotional techniques which are proven to be most efficient. Taking lessons from the established media on how to get music heard doesn’t make you the established media and it certainly doesn’t make your motivations the same as theirs. Or to put it another way, we can promote good music honestly, they can only do it for money and the hollow, trend setting mentality which has been scorned on this thread is wholly a result of the commercial demands the mainstream faces in promoting music, they’re paid to hype things and to create illusions of innovation – we can use the same tools and the same logic to do it because we honestly love the music and that change in mentality alters the whole nature of the act. The tools aren’t defined by the motive.

    On a final note though – the world is what it is, a capitalist one where the market supposedly dictates ‘value’ – a fact which has forced a lot of musicians (and other artists) to sideline their passion and instead prioritise other, often far less rewarding and less worthwhile, work. Setting up a framework which can to some small extent support artists in making music isn’t an adherence to the edicts of the system, it’s a recognition that the system’s values are wrong and that creating music is, in fact, of value, immense value in fact and whilst money isn’t exactly the method any of us would choose to highlight that fact it is the thing which can give the artist time and stability to indulge their creativity. And I don’t want to suggest following the commercial model of profitability there, I’m solely talking about the creative contributors being rewarded here, not a bloated industry surrounding them.

    Anyway, back to work, although I know I’ve missed at least half a dozen points which merited a reply. Plus I’ve got to work on the next article, I thought ‘Should we all just club together and hire a PR company?’ would be a good topic… 😉

  20. January 12, 2011
    Reply

    @ dylan: I do not fully understand what you mean by ‘making money under a freely shared framework’. Does this mean that the artists will share their music for free but make a living by doing other music-related things? If that’s what you mean, I have no objection. In fact, I have worked with several such artists and I also support professional sound engineers and designers by giving work to them. However, what I don’t see in such a scenario is why someone who wants to make a living from their art would not do so by using the quintessence of the fruit of their art — their music. In other words: if one has to live off their art, why go in the trouble of first attracting the attention of the free-sharing community and _then_ selling their art?

    I’m sure there are acceptable answers to my questions, but I can’t think of any one that applies to the most general case of struggling musician.

  21. dylan
    January 12, 2011
    Reply

    @ Stefanos Heh, evidently we’re in agreement after all, I mean just what you do, the music must be free but that doesn’t exclude other related avenues from being profitable which, as you say, is already being done by some artists. As to why musicians would bother with such a circuitous route, I think it’s largely down to the principles of sharing, which have obvious merits and some sense of what I’d hesitantly call ‘moral validity’ to them. I can only really talk for myself as a writer but I’d rather give people free access to my work and work harder to find alternative means of making a living than exclude an audience, or modify my work solely for the sake of profitability. Which is a very, very hard path to take at the moment (even more so in writing than music), hence my suggesting frameworks and ideas which might make it more of a viable option for more people. If any artist feels that personally and morally the right thing to do is offer their work free to the audience I want to ensure that their beliefs and principles aren’t screwing them out of some form of living. How many artists would actually make that moral choice I can’t say, but there are clearly some and supporting them seems like a worthwhile goal. Albeit a fairly distant one at this point.

  22. Graham
    January 12, 2011
    Reply

    as my friend Bill so interestingly put it, “the record companies had the power and the artist got nothing, now the artist has the power, and the artist still gets nothing.”

    the record industry wants ONE THING from people with real musical talent: to never profit on their own from their music without help from the industry dogs.

    So in my opinion, people who give their music away for free, always and all the time, are selling out, or rather, “freeing” out, and are a part of the force that allows record labels to maintain some kind of relevance in a culture that has no need for them anymore.

    Free music and this sense of “musical martyrdom” is self-indulgent, misguided, and harms our musical culture.

    The idea of indie labels and net-labels and artist collectives and co-ops and so forth, is not to create an unprofitable environment for musicians, but rather to shift the power and benefit back to the artists who are doing the creating, without having to support a massive corporation, their lawyers, engineers, contracted song-writers, A&Rs, management, secretaries, etc. all of whom have little to nothing to do with the process of creating.

    It is silly to think that because someone is musically skilled, and aims to profit from their skill, that they are somehow less in touch with the spirituality of music. If you do not make money to then put back into your art-form, to promote it, and to perform it, then the record industry will always be dominated by those WHO DO. Media outlets will always go to where the money is, and so therefore, the music culture will always be dominated by jerk-offs with thick wallets.

    Rather, if you truly love your art-form, and you truly love the process of creation, you will do what is necessary to find revenue streams that will allow you to focus more on your creative passion, to study it, practice it, perform it, and become engrossed in it.

    Or as Guru once said on the “wake-up show”, selling out is not making money at what you do, selling out is doing what they want you to do, what they tell you to do, with the promise of money being the motivation to do so. (indirect quote indeed, but the idea is the same)

    Thoughts?

  23. January 13, 2011
    Reply

    @ Graham:

    “So in my opinion, people who give their music away for free, always and all the time, are selling out, or rather, “freeing” out, and are a part of the force that allows record labels to maintain some kind of relevance in a culture that has no need for them anymore.”

    I don’t see the connection of this sentence with the points you make earlier in your comment. Am I right to assume that by ‘people’ you mean (semi)professional artists who use the ‘free’ factor to promote their commercially released music? In this case, I wouldn’t say that they are selling out, just that their reasoning doesn’t help anyone, not even themselves.

    “Free music and this sense of “musical martyrdom” is self-indulgent, misguided, and harms our musical culture.”

    First of all, I don’t think that free music in general harms any culture, apart maybe from conflicting with the consumerism culture. Secondly, I guess ‘musical martyrdom’ in this context would be defined as ‘suffering’ in order to share music for free. Again, this is only possible for people whose living is somehow supported by use of their music. If someone makes a living otherwise then there’s no way to ‘suffer’ by sharing music freely.

    In your next paragraph you put indie labels and netlabels side by side in a struggle “to shift the power and benefit back to the artists”. Although it goes without saying that this is only my opinion (and even if it doesn’t, we have already established it explicitly above), this should _not_ be the case. The netlabel scene is from its foundation _not_ designed to support the professional musician (some netlabels manage to actually support the artists, but the support they provide is definitely not substantial). It is not merely a promotion tool, another means of promotion or advertisement. The netlabel scene exists because there’s an _inherent_ need for free communication of musical ideas between people who would normally be _outside_ any other musical scene. Allow me to introduce the term ‘hobbyists’ to refer to such people from now on, only for the sake of simplicity and due to the lack of a better word. Of course even professional musicians can be ‘hobbyists’ and their profession might actually benefit from their hobby activities. There is no problem with that. The problem would be to demand from the ‘hobby’ scene to transform in order to conform with the needs and expectations of professionals, because they wish to circumvent the problems they are facing in their work. I believe I need not elaborate further on why this is messed up.

    I don’t think anyone suggested that professional musicians are less in touch with the spirituality of music. On the contrary, I’d say that I have a deep respect for people who are trying to perfect their art and are at the same time struggling to afford this effort. However, there’s a great deal of us ‘hobbyists’ who have a damn good idea of what good music is and how to make it, but for irrelevant reasons this cannot be our profession. The netlabel scene is the ‘hobbyist’ scene and pros are also welcome, as long as they are also ‘hobbyists’ on the side or can become ‘hobbyists’ on occasion.

    It is interesting that you quote a huge figure of hip-hop (RIP…). I think that the essence of the argument can also be seen in that scene as well. The hip-hop culture originated from musically uneducated people who felt a natural impulse to express themselves through one of this culture’s elements. Until well into the nineties, no one but a handful of superstars was able to make a living from it, but people made albums on the side of their day jobs. They had to go through the whole music industry circuit and got exploited by it just to make it happen (“We had a f*cked up contract but we signed it…”). Still, later on those worthy salt either disappeared into obscurity or lost popularity and remained as archaic images in a circuit which promoted worthless sell-outs and crossovers to the shitty rnb-pop recipe the industry dictated.

    Today ‘hobbyists’ have the opportunity to avoid jumping through the industry hoops anymore if they just want make music and share it. Also, there’s no chance of sell-outs, since there’s no one buying. The introduction of someone who _is_ buying, which would be a consequence of some of the proposals mentioned above, would radically change the landscape for the worse. I personally wouldn’t want that to happen.

  24. Graham
    January 13, 2011
    Reply

    @stefanos your points are relevant and insightful. My comment was made in haste and without much clarity. So perhaps I should expound upon them. However, i feel as though it is futile because it is a discussion whose conclusion will not be found on this, or any other message board, but rather in the actions of both traditional labels and netlabels, and the consumers of music, whether they are paying customers or are being fed for free. I do agree with many of your points, in both your response to me as well as many of your posts prior.

    One which I think is most relevant is that none of us are really in the position to define what a netlabel is nor what it should be. And my spewed comments were more in response to the idea that the term ‘netlabel’ is synonymous with free model/philosophy. Certainly, I did not make this abundantly clear, and may have even missed that point entirely. The truth is that there are a many netlables out there, each with their own ways of defining their role in the artistic community, and the most an artist should do is find one which coincides with their beliefs about the promotion and distribution of music and go there. Or not, should they want not to belong to such an organization.

    I do however think there are differences between the sharing of musical ideas, the sharing of music as product, and the sharing of ideas and expression through the medium of music. Sharing musical ideas is critical, but it has never necessarily been free, and I have yet to see a substantial argument for why it should be completely free. Sure, it’s free when you are sitting in a coffee shop talking to a classical guitarist about the systemic ratios found in the structure of a Bach suite, but try getting piano lessons for free. And I personally do not think it should be, not for the purposes of keeping people ‘out’, but… Well for reasons too wide and varying to even get into. But ultimately, what they do have in common, is that it is the discretion of the artist / teacher to decide whether to place a monetary value on each one.

    As a musician, and an artist who views music, at it’s core, as a performance art (with the advent of the archival of sounds being relatively new in the history of music, whereas previously one could only archive the language of music for someone to then perform), i would personally love to be able to afford to put on a spectacular show. more than just make music and share it, I would like to be able to engross people in a synesthetic experience that transcends the audial and becomes something more akin to theatrical experience. I would like it manifest not only in the perceptual realm of the sonic, but also as a visual, tactile, philosophical, and spiritual experience. This is both time-consuming and pricy, albeit even with the advancements in technology that have made organizing such a show much more affordable. Therefore, I would like to be able to monetize my skills, so that i may put that money back into the greater goal of shaping the music into a more and more spectacular experience. And then see whether or not people feel that such an experience is worth paying for. I do not necessarily want to profit from it, but to be capable of sustaining my livelihood from my artform would allow me to continue focusing on it, to perfect it, and to push the boundaries of the artform and better it for all who come later… without fear of starvation forcing me to work for a paycheck at a job which has no musical significance. Which is also not to say that all i want to do is sit around all day ‘expressing myself.’

    Which brings me to another point, about hip-hop. While I agree that the need to express the post-civil rights struggle of the urban community was a major motivation in the development of hip-hop, it was not that these people were musically ‘uneducated’ but in fact were just poor and had little more than turntables and speakers to work with. These same communities were the epicenters of some of the most theoretically rich music of the 20th century, and birthed some of the greatest jazz composers of the modern era. Also, they did not jump through industry hoops to necessarily get their voices heard, but also for the purposes of bringing money back into the urban community and hopefully advance the position of underpriveleged people, while simultaneously bringing the people of that community together under the umbrella of music. This is a case where the commerce of music can do more than just line the pockets of greedy musical infidels. Hip hop was developed to be easily digested, to be fun and dancable, and to be widely consumable for all of these reasons. In other words, there was nothing uneducated about hip-hop other than the Suburban and Rural community’s perception of it. And the desire to become wealthy was most certainly a goal of even the most ‘conscious’ emcees.

    But in the end I don’t really care what a netlabel is or should be. I don’t even really like netlabels, I like music. And if they want to give it away, then that’s their privelege. If they don’t, then it’s their right.

    I do think that there are some amazing artists who could gain national exposure and help to combat a numbed, dumbed-down mainstream musical culture, but never will because there is unfortunately a percieved legitimacy in commercial success. And as long as smart musicians do not make money, then mainstream culture will never embrace smart musicians making smart music (at least, in america). The rare exceptions will always pop up (radiohead, arcade fire, etc.). while these bands are talented and smart to have masked very complex, intelligent music inside of catchy phrasings and familiar tones, they are also still very lucky to be considered cool, which is really why people buy it in such numbers. (no offense to either band there, but it’s the unfortunate reality, but it aint like they are reading this anyways)

    Ugh, there are a lot of reasons why i think it would be cool for people to reshape mainstream culture as opposed to try and fight against it, but if you want to know why, just read Edward Said (particularly Culture and Imperialism), i don’t have time to expound on this furthur.

    All in all, i like your thoughts, and you were right to rip apart my comments, they were half-assed and hastily typed. I doubt I’ll speak much furthur on this issue, but i will most likely check back to see if this discussion goes anywhere else.

  25. January 14, 2011
    Reply

    @ Graham: thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts so clearly. I now understand your points much better. Also, excuse my use of the phrase ‘musically uneducated’ when describing hip-hop artists. I meant it in the traditional conservatory sense. And of course there was a need for cash inflow in those communities, but even some of the artists who later became legends, in the beginning heard their tunes on the radio while mopping floors for 2$/hour. I agree that the motives that led to the flourishing of hip-hop were more complex than just the need to express oneself. Otherwise hip-hop would have been just a way of protest and not a way of life. I guess my comparison of that situation with the one at hand was not so appropriate.

    Anyway, back to the main point. In the fourth paragraph of your comment you describe the process I briefly mentioned as the pursuit of art form perfection. People who engage on such a pursuit are the people I called professional musicians. Obviously, in the ideal case music is not just the profession of these people, but also their life’s passion. I’m 100% in favor of the concept of finding new ways to promote and support these artists and in that sense I agree with your above comment in its entirety. I also agree with the original post in the same sense.

    However, from my point of view, when netlabels are considered we have to deal with a completely different and relatively new phenomenon: the so-called bedroom musician, or to follow my terminology, the hobbyist. It is my understanding that this scene emerged because of the needs of such people. The hobbyist is not interested in a lifelong struggle to perfect their art, simply because they have other stuff to do. I am intentionally being very bold here just to make my point. It is obvious that these people care a great deal about their music and the development of their musical skills. They care about the whole process from concept and composition to post-production and presentation. All in all, these people have an innate predisposition to create a complete musical product and share it. Some of these people happen to be exceptionally talented, so talented that they produce in their leisure time pieces of music that are equally or more masterful than what pros produce. Some other hobbyists have great musical ideas and try to realize them, the result being only sometimes a success. On the other side of the speakers there are people who are interested in ‘hobbyist music’, either because it’s free or because it’s in a sense ‘home-made’ or for any other reason. _This_ is how the netlabel scene was born. This is _not_ a matter of discussion, this is a _fact_. Professional musicians joined this picture later on. Notice how so far there’s no mention of ‘combat’ against the mainstream musical industry, impending revolution or people trying to make a living off making music. There’s only guys in pyjamas (very few girls unfortunately, maybe this is another big problem to address? 🙂 ) fiddling (mostly) with electronics in their bedroom or basement on their spare time and sharing the results on the internet via a few central websites called netlabels.

    Now we come to the point of discussing about the future. The pyjama people have of course started interacting with each other. They have started gathering up in basements, with their gear and their pyjamas, and collaborate. They put together shows and even festivals. They have almost created a global network and they have started gaining exposure in media. And all this with some free time, some talent in making tunes and some organizational skills! So what should be the next step?

    There has also been a great inflow of people in this scene with aspirations greater than pyjamas and basement parties. They are of course welcome to contribute to the scene. However, it is my belief that the pyjama factor is the most important ingredient. It is what makes this scene more intimate, more fun and more suited to ‘ordinary’ people having ‘ordinary’ jobs, but who also care a lot about the making of music. We don’t care about reshaping the mainstream culture with our own musical activities (I’m down with participating to someone else’s activities in that direction), because that would require us to get out of our pyjamas and, let’s face it, we love our pyjamas!

    I hope you don’t find the word ‘pyjamas’ offending. If you do, replace it in the above with the word ‘leisure’, or try to acquire a sense of humor.

  26. January 14, 2011
    Reply

    (Well . . . ) now some people’s hot
    An’ some people’s cold
    (Well, Lawd . . . ) an’ some people’s not very
    (Very) swift to behold (swifty!)
    (I told you) some people do it (do it!)
    (Yes, they do!) (No . . . )
    Some see right through it
    (See right through it!)
    An’ some wear PO-JAMAS
    If only they knew it

    Po-jama people! (People!) (Oh, yeah)
    Po-jama people special . . .
    (I said, I said, I said)
    Take one home with you, & save a dollar today

    🙂

  27. January 14, 2011
    Reply

    in italy something of that kind was done some year ago with the portal named Nettare (the url was http://www.nettare.org/ ) it started with the release of a compilation, then every italian netlabel made its account and started pubblishing every release, but, simply nettare was not working and now i see that it was shout down.
    Probably the central point is trully the money.

  28. Graham
    January 15, 2011
    Reply

    @stefanos I’m not sure why the hostility towards the end of your reply, but perhaps it is just a percieved hostility. Either way, I can take it. And i found that sense of humor you mentined but so far all it tells me is that you aren’t all that funny.

    My sense of humor does activate at the idea that ‘hobbyists’ are a modern phenomenon. This is laughable. I figured this would be evident, since nobody comes out of the womb with a record contract, and very few (and less than intelligent) people think that being a musician is a great way to make money.

    every musician starts as a hobbyist (which by the way, is also called amateur. But it seems there is trend of giving names to things that already have names. Perhaps sensitive people feel that being called ‘amateur’ judges them as ‘not good’? So if hobbyist is what you prefer, we’ll go with hobbyist)
    as far back as music reaches, there have been hobbyists who play music simply for the love of it, without ever performing a concert, or looking to be paid for their art. My great-grandfather played piano as a hobbyist, and he died before the phrase ‘dot-com’ was ever uttered.

    But i understand, someone who would be a ‘hobbyist’ in the sense you are refering to them, would probably refuse a recording contract, being content to simply make music and have it heard without the need for compensation. Which is legitimate and beautiful, and I take up no issue with this at all. (although I would simply say that this person does not want to capitalize on their skill. But again, categorization and labeling creates importance and comfort) So there, hobbyist now has a different definition from amatuer. An amatuer is someone who does not make money from their art, a hobbyist is someone who intentionally does not _want_ to make money from their art. Okay, the hobbyist is now established as the patron saint of musicians.

    What I don’t understand is this sense of professional musicians being somehow a threat to the purity or sanctity of the netlabel. And i believe your history of netlabels is incomplete and presumptuous, for a number of reasons. Not the least of which being that in a very real way, hobbyists have the commerce of music and the profitability of music technologies to thank for the ability to sit in their basement and make quality music that people can enjoy, and not shell out thousands of dollars for the equipment. It takes lots of money to mass-produce all those tools that so many hobbyists use and without that commercial industry, the tech and infrastructure to create and share it would not be there.

    But as a hypothetical, let’s just say that a small group of hobbyists had gotten together sometime in the 80s, developed the mp3 file format, packet sharing and network protocols, the midi language, ‘prosumer’-level equipment, music 00, or hell, how about just the language of music altogether… Let’s assume that hobbyists only had hobbyists to thank for hobbyism, in all possible measures…. It still would not give them any exclusive right to the concept of net-labelism. because the two are completely different. Hobbyism does not equal netlabelism. Hobbyists have simply utilized netlabels more effectively than professionals up til now. But perhaps the professionalization of netlabels is the answer to the ‘next step’ question you posed in the fourth paragraph of your reply?

    Also, there should be no reason to make the net-label synonymous with hobbyism or free-sharing, because you’ve already defined that process, and used it profusely: hobbyism. Why do you need the netlabel-label as well? Besides, we already have a clearly-defined, socially-accepted idea of a netlabel: a music label that distributes its product exclusively or promarily through digital means. This definition makes no mention of whether they charge money for their product. a possible solution would be to recategorize netlabels (i.e. Professional netlabels & pajama-party netlabels, or whatever works for you)

    And while you clearly tried to frame my comments about reshaping culture as though I view myself as some kind of revolutionary in a war with the dumb, I would argue that you feel threatened by the idea of professional musicians organizing under the umbrella of a netlabel, effectively making fellow musicians into something to fear. And I would much rather take an aggresive stance against a formulaic, doctored, commercialized, sold-out mainstream musicianship than some illusory fear of the extinction of the hobbyists arena.

    But perhaps this is an overstatement? Perhaps you are just concerned about the possible dilution of hobbyist music, or that netlabels will not hold the same purpose and power once they swim in revenue streams? Well, in short, they won’t. But this is why we call them _movements_. These systems are born of transient beings and so too are transient themselves. They are birthed, grow, adapt, evolve and die according to the same forces that we do, for they are our children.

    And ultimately, i view your stance as one of the parent whos child has just finished college, and they’re ready for a real job in the real world. And you’re scared and afraid that you can’t protect them anymore from those who might mistreat your child and do them harm. Unfortunately, it would only stifle your baby to try and shield them from those forces. Give it up, the world has your baby netlabels, and there’s little you can do about it.

    don’t be afraid that money will ruin netlabels. Crappy music will ruin netlabels, just like crappy music ruined traditional labels. Its an inevitability. Just be a force that creates purely, whether you are paid to do so or not. you just can’t try to exclude people out of the netlabel category by attempting to redefine netlabel as something that it is not.

  29. January 16, 2011
    Reply

    @ Graham: It was not my intention to sound hostile and I don’t think any of my earlier replies reflects such a thing. I accept the facts that my terminology may not be the best and that I am not funny. I’m afraid I disagree with almost all the rest.

    Did your great-grandfather produce a piano record? Was there any classical composer who completed a score for a great musical piece without sponsorship by the church or someone rich? Of course people playing and sometimes making tunes is not new. People producing complete albums in their bedroom just for fun is a relatively new phenomenon. I am sorry I wasn’t clear about this in my previous comment, I thought it might be clear from the context. Also, I do not care about being labeled either an amateur or a hobbyist. Again, this is a flaw of my terminology. If this makes a difference to you, then interchange the two words in my above comment.

    I do not understand the whole speech about the technological improvements that we have at our disposal today. I have nothing against commerce in general. If you’re trying to make a point with this, please clarify. I agree that the mass production of electronics and digital technology in general is the main cause that has enabled the bedroom producer to make music. And I never supported that I will give a complete sociological account of how netlabels came to be. I don’t see how I may have given the impression that I am against commerce, since I have not said anything even remotely close to such a statement. This may have something to do with the ending sentence of my prior-to-last comment, that introduction of commerce would change the landscape of the netlabel scene for the worse. I agree that this may have been misleading, so let me explain: at this point there is _nothing_ that can happen, short of apocalyptic proportions, that can demolish the free-sharing netlabel scene. Therefore, I do not feel that this scene is threatened by anyone or anything. The only thing that can happen is that the introduction of commerce will make it uglier for the average listener, thus driving them off. This does not really affect me. I’ve been around for quite a while and obscurity does not bother me at all. However, I do prefer to have more people to share and communicate music with and that’s why I’m voicing my concerns.

    “Hobbyism does not equal netlabelism. Hobbyists have simply utilized netlabels more effectively than professionals up til now.”

    Agreed.

    “But perhaps the professionalization of netlabels is the answer to the ‘next step’ question you posed in the fourth paragraph of your reply?”

    Basically, all I’ve been saying is that in my opinion the answer to this question is no. I am not trying to protect anyone, I don’t see anything as my precious baby, I am not the patron saint of anything, and I don’t see why you are trying to accuse me of such things. Again, I do not feel that amateur musicianship or hobbyism or whatever you want to call it is threatened by anything. Commercial models and consumerist systems will come and go like passing flies and professional musicians will have to adapt to these changes to live, but we, amateur musicians and amateur music appreciators, will not be affected. It would be nice to have a scene that reflects this continuum, without any strings attached.

    I’m not afraid that money will ruin what netlabels stand for today. And I don’t need to redefine netlabels for them to be connected with free sharing and amateur musicianship today. Even if the meaning of the word netlabel transforms in order to suit any cause, what it stands for today cannot be changed. I would prefer it if it didn’t change in such ways, because I happen to like this platform for sharing. But even if it does change, what it stood for will be still here, so no worries. Whether the music industry likes it or not, we will be here forever 🙂

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