Interview with Drowning netlabel from Denmark

Continuing the tour of netlabel interviews per country in alphabetical order, I dug up a Danish netlabel called Drowning and asked its founder and curator Danny Kreutzfeldt some questions on their state of operations. Drowning focuses on drone and doom sounds, not everyone’s cup of tea, but, as you’ll read, their answers still provide interesting insights on how some labels operate and the parallel with the diy music scene.

Wyrm – Ouroburous Harpegnathos

Can you please introduce to us the people who run Drowning. What are their backgrounds. Is it just you running the whole label Danny?
Drowning is run solely by me. I live in Denmark and work professionally with web stuff, but have been involved with electronic and extreme music since adolescence. My first release was a dubby ambient EP on the pioneering netlabel Thinner in 2002. From 2002 till 2008 I released a lot of music on netlabels and physical format labels. I was a part of the Noisejihad concert/party-organization until we closed in 2008. At some point I also ran a small hateful CDR label called 8K Mob.

Today, I’m involved with the Danish electronic music label Uhrlaut. Back in 2008 it was the first label in the world to have an official collecting society (KODA) backing an LP/CD release, which was also made available as free Creative Commons mp3s. While I’m not really active making new music anymore, I still have a solo music project called Periskop, with which I’m currently working on an LP/free download album on Uhrlaut in 2013.

When did you feel the need to create Drowning? Why the focus on drone/doom? Was there a lack of labels focusing on the genre?
Drowning is a drone & doom netlabel, which means it mainly releases drone doom metal. I’ve been fascinated by this type of music for a long time. The notion of brutal primitive sound taking the form of slow evocative art immediately appealed to me. But Drowning is not a strictly genre-specific label and I’m interested in releasing anything drone-based or doom-like, as long as it fits the overall aesthetic. This is pretty normal for the many labels out there releasing drone doom metal, but I don’t think there are any of them that operate as a netlabel.

I started Drowning in 2009 as a pet project, where I could try out things related to doing music on the web. Because of the monumental overproduction and overpromotion of culture, these are interesting times. One consequence has been that music as a consumer product has become almost completely worthless. The obvious solution to this is to turn every label into a CC-based netlabel. But this raises the question of where the value is in music these days. And despite offering music for free, if the promotion is not done well, people will still feel like you’re trying to steal their time from them. All this fascinates me.

How does Drowning relate to the local scene? Do you organize concerts? Do you have any connections with local promoters? Or do you operate solely on the internet?
A firm grounding in a local scene is very useful for an artist, band or physical format label. This is also somewhat true for a netlabel, but sadly I have plenty of connections and not enough time. So far there has only been one Drowning release event, which was earlier this year in my hometown Aarhus for Moongazing Hare’s “The Sunderland Wreck”. I’ve been meaning to do some showcases for ages, and it’s probably the one thing I need to find better time for, in order to promote Drowning effectively in Denmark.

I noticed on your website you have some videos as well. Do you feel the video component is essential in the process of bringing people to listening to the sounds?
Well, for the moment they are no-budget videos made by the acts themselves – and mainly just an excuse to have a presence on YouTube. YouTube is where most people younger than 60 check out new music, but there’s so much, and the suggestion function is extremely poor. If a good well-subscribed YouTube channel has made the effort of uploading a release, I think it’s a very nice gesture and holds a lot of value. Even though it doesn’t generate a lot of traffic to the netlabel site, it gets the music heard. As a netlabel though, it only really makes sense to make videos for YouTube, if you release an already established name, that people are actively searching for.

If none of this is happening, the long way around would be to build up your own successful YouTube channel, or search for channels you can try to push your stuff to.

I know you personally been involved with several label and music projects under a few different genres. Do you notice a parallel between those niche genre scenes? I’m talking in terms of how they position themselfs in the netaudio / cdr / commercial aspect.
The one thing I would say strikes me the most in all scenes or genres these days is, how big the difference can be between the high quality of some music compared to how few people that are into it.

While this has certainly been emphasized by the cultural overproduction, I really don’t think this is about our culture getting more superficial or uncritical. In fact I think the opposite is happening on many scenes. It’s more about the average musician being naïve about how the work is being perceived among all the other stuff, that’s out there. It’s extremely important to have the whole package make sense: Music, band name, album title, artwork and whatever story, message or impression you can make the whole thing revolve around. Otherwise very few people will know why they should spend time on it.

This also falls back on many labels, which may be good at making quality music products, but are completely clueless about local or online promotion, so they have no idea how to get the releases out once their distribution partners close down.

In this sense, musical talent is less and less just about making good music, and more and more about also getting the whole act to make sense, and about making things happen around you.

Can you tell us a little on the Danish netaudio scene? How many labels are out there? What genres they cover?
I don’t think there is a Danish netaudio scene, and I have no idea how many Danish netlabels there are. I remember Kyoto had a good electronic dub thing going back in 2005-2006, and I know Illphabetik have been releasing random electronic crap for ages. And then there’s Uhrlaut I mentioned earlier, which also deals with electronic music.

However, I’ve been seeing more and more DIY labels putting their stuff up for free download once the physical limited edition product has sold out. This is a wonderfully obvious thing, that I would encourage any DIY label to do. A fine example of this is Golem Tapes from Aarhus, which caters an eclectic style around experimental rock, tape loop drones and surreal jazz.

Thank you for your time! Any last words of advice for people digging through netaudio to discover good music or the folks curating and promoting it?
To the people looking for good netaudio: Good luck.

To the people running netlabels: Don’t waste people’s time; don’t release boring mediocre music just because you can; don’t make confusing websites just because they look cool. People will hate you and leave you.

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  1. SimonVB
    October 28, 2012

    That was a really interesting read. I loved the insight on whole-package deals that include a solid theme/strategy spanning band name, music itself, artwork and website. Come to think of it, that is often what makes me really hyped about labels/releases.

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