OK...Hi! Boy, have I been busy lately! I had all these great ideas for articles to post here but I just haven't had time for any of them. Going through my list of potential articles, though, I see I had an idea for a series of articles on netlabels. Well, that seems fairly straight-forward and not too involved, so...off we go!
Netlabels. What are they? Let's turn to the ultimate source of all reliable knowledge, Wikipedia, for our answer:
"A netlabel (also online label, web label, digi label, MP3 label or download label) is a record label that distributes its music through digital audio formats (such as MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, or WAV) over the Internet. While similar to traditional record labels in many respects, netlabels typically emphasize free distribution online, often under licenses that encourage works to be shared (e.g., Creative Commons licenses), and artists often retain copyright.
Netlabels may have a considerably lower staff count than traditional record labels, in some instances being only a single individual in control of his/her music, maintaining sole ownership. Physical LPs, for example, are rarely produced by a netlabel, relying entirely on digital distribution and means of the Internet to provide the product. Having no physical product makes the running costs of a netlabel considerably less than a traditional record label and some netlabels have abandoned any financial model altogether and instead, running the netlabel as a hobby. Some employ guerrilla marketing to promote their work."
The Wikipedia article goes on to describe some of the history of netlabels with an emphasis on the demoscene, trackers, MODS, 8-bit and videogame music. While this certainly is an important part of the early history of netlabels, I feel there is a more significant connection historically to earlier forms of DIY music production and distribution, namely the Cassette Culture of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Are netlabels a continuation of Cassette Culture or are they a different animal altogether? I lean toward thinking they are more similar to the cassette labels of the 80s and 90s than they are different, but I'm going to leave that question open and, hopefully, we'll see some interesting commentary/discussion here at Electronic Cottage!
In the meantime, I'm going to start posting some basic information on netlabels that I've been involved with or have come across in my activities as an experimental music artist.
Here's the first one - suRRism-Phonoethics:
From their bio at Free Music Archive - "Surrism-Phonoethics is an Offenbach, Germany based (currently) non-profit netlabel founded & run by Jaan Patterson, specializing in Experimental music. Some of their releases could be classified as Electronic art music/Electronic music, industrial or experimental music with sub-genres like Electro-Acoustic, Improvisation & Cut-Up. Their official launch occurred in 2008, with a release for Undress Béton ‘Tarentaliogy Defloration’.
All their releases are free for download under Creative Commons or Copyleft licenses.
suRRism was initiated by Jaan Patterson & Aufait, formalized after publication of their suRRism Manifesto to the Internet Archive as lettrrism_0000 in November 2007.
The release labeled as ‘sPE_0001’ ‘Caged?’ in February 2010 by Igor Jovanovic (Lezet) consists of 10 Prepared Piano pieces, was the first Artist, besides the founders who released to their catalogue of suRRism-Phonoethics."
Right, so suRRism-Phonoethics was, indeed, founded by the German artist/musician Jaan Patterson, whom I've known for a decade or more. Jaan was extremely active in the netlabel/experimental digital music scene for a long time and, in addition to running suRRism-Phonoethics, also co-ran (with UK-based Anthony Donovan) the great Classwar Karaoke series of internet releases. I haven't heard from Jaan in awhile and I'm not sure what he's up to these days. I don't even know if suRRism-Phonoethics is currently active, but their many fabulous releases are still available at suRRism-Phonoethics label at Free Music Archive and at the suRRism-Phonoethics Bandcamp site and well worth checking out!
French netlabel No Records (Yann Pillas) has just released a huge 118-track digital album called "Radio Nautilus". I have a track (as The Bim Prongs) and folks here will find a number of other familiar names listed (including Frank Audiffret, Neal Retke, and David Nadeau).
The album has a fun science fiction theme - "We are in the year 4572 in the Constellation of CassElliot. At this place, hyper space is forbidden as the area is populated by billions of civilizations. Everyone is crossing in this zone with a reduced speed. One thing unites these billions of living beings : the famous RADIO NAUTILUS, which emits 73 hours a day from the exoplanet Fitzgerald." - and boasts a wide range of musical styles including various forms of electronica, drone, metal, noise, and experimental.
Dave Warmbier (formerly of Detroit's legendary The Hearing Trumpet) was kind enough to play an excerpt from my radio art series "The Long Play" on his radio show "The Institute of Spectra-Sonic Sound" (actually, this is my second appearance on the show!). The show was broadcast on KEPW, Eugene, OR on May 12/18 and featured a great selection of music/sound/noise including Yma Sumac, Oa, Sick Llama, Small Cruel Party, Francisco Lopez, Toy Bizarre, Tod Dockstader, Thomas Koner, and many others. You can listen to an archived version of the show on Mixcloud.
I've been kicking around a bunch of ideas regarding what to do with my little corner of the Electronic Cottage. When Hal McGee first approached me to be a contributor, I think the idea, at that point, was for Electronic Cottage to be more along the lines of an online magazine than what it has evolved into, which is somewhere between a magazine and a forum/blog (not knocking it. I like the current direction, and maybe this was Hal's intention from the beginning). Even though I remain somewhat undecided about what to present here, I still like the idea of a "magazine" and I'm committed to providing some kind of "magazine-like" content, as opposed to treating my page as a personal blog (not knocking that either, if that's the approach others want to take). So, what this page won't be about is me. At least...not just about me. I mean, c'mon, there's gotta be some W.A.Davison in there or it will be completely boring! ha ha...jokes...
Anyway, who says I have to choose one idea and stick to it? Ha! When has that ever been MY modus operandi? Never, that's when! So, what I'm thinking may happen here is a number of "series" of articles - the interview series, the collaboration series, the cowboy series, the inflatable rubber raft series, the infinite flyspeck series, etc. - you get the idea. Hmmm, now that I start listing these things, it all sounds WAY too ambitious! I think I might just do the "lying in bed not doing anything" series. Yes, that sounds good.
W.A.Davison is a Canadian multi-disciplinary artist who has been producing various forms of experimental art and music for over 35 years.