This is a response to a recent article titled Speaking Free, written by my friend Dylan Orchard, on the uncertainty of the direction and focus of the netaudio scene.
In respect to order and chaos
A scene or movement is always a dynamic entity, it forms itself out of people with different backgrounds and interests that atoned to a common goal or characteristic. It doesn’t mean they’ll all play by the same rules. It definitely never implied they shall all get along and share the same visions and values.
But this is a good thing. Diversity implies a greater ability to rapidly adapt to changes. Considering how fast technology evolves and how transient the human interest in new music can be, these characteristics bode well to the indie music scene. Which explains the exponential growth the netaudio scene has had and why so many models that have been prototyped first in the netaudio scene are only now getting adopted by the mainstream artists and indie label owners tired of the old models.
I don’t see the netaudio scene as having lost focus or a common ground at all. Just an ever-increasing expansion and sustained evolution and reanalysis, which every label and artist has to do for themselves and try things out to find their soft spot.
But one thing I do entirely concur with is that there is a lack of audience reach within the netlabel scene, and that we seem to cultivate a certain underlying fetishism for the introspective underground. Which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me since we don’t even know each other all that well and probably never will, since there are so many labels and artists out there. Yet we keep focusing on releasing more of the unknown to an unknown “cyberspace” audience. Casually ignoring the lack of feedback on new releases as a personal stance holding the flag on the democratization of music releasing.
Yeah, it’s a lot easier to put a new release out there these days. But you still have to build a reputation for yourself, get a network and promote the releases if you want to get anywhere beyond your circle of friends.
Free music is free
Amidst it all we have the freeness of it all, which, rightfully noted, has different meanings to different people, and for some they even change with time, i’m sure some folks can think of a few artists and netlabels who suddenly forgot their netaudio roots in a fleeting ephiphany that they might be able to achieve more notoriety if they renounce the cult of the free.
Guess they slightly ignored how many indie labels and artists have done the exact reverse path, but that’s subject matter for a whole other series of articles.
More important then the discussion of whose version of free is the most accurate and should be scribbled down on all our guidelines of standards and rules that only a few in our scene would actually abide to; is the subject of why should members of a scene atone to a single definition to begin with? Different people release in different ways, if they still have a download for free, it’s netaudio else it’s not. Each label and artist must follow their own path of figuring out what works best for them.
There are several views on whats free, some more legal than others. Some legalities more moral than others. But people will keep making, listening, promoting and distributing music regardless of all that. Monetization is a parallel paradigm. Netaudio simply removes that issue for the listener.
Free but not netaudio
Another interesting phenomena are artists, labels with albums that despite being free for download don’t like using the term netaudio applied to them. It has a negative connotation. As if the release being announced in those channels as opposed to the authors social network would suddenly get lost in a sea of unknown authors and confused for something which might or might not be mediocre.
I think this is symptomatic for the lack of trust in quality the general audience and media still has in netaudio releases, despite lots of very good efforts against that image having been made in the past few years. And this is serious food for thought which unsurprisingly ends up influencing netaudio artists and labels to try out “the dark side” once again.