Hi Mr. Mike,
I really appreciate your blocSonic site, expecially the articles, that I print to PDF and i read offline with a lot of attention. I agree with your vision of netlabel scene and I think you have greatly highlighted what It really miss, expecially in your last article “An infrastructure for take-over” (http://blocsonic.com/blog/an_infrastructure_for_take-over). I really liked this article and I’d like to write you some lines about some of its parts. I’d be glad if you could publish it on your site too, to stimulate other people to join the discussion 🙂 By the way, let’s go with the juice of my mail. ps. Sorry in advance for my crappy english 🙂
“It’s also safe to say, that if these new listeners hear just a couple net audio gems that they connect to, they’re more-likely to overcome their first inclination to think that free equals uninteresting, unprofessional or simply bad. Once a listener realizes that net audio is as good or better than mainstream music, they’re in. movement. They’re part of the movement.”
Yeah, 80% of netaudio stuff is ambientish/idm shit. I actually have 80 GB of netlabel stuff, all with right tags and covers inside the mp3s (3 years of HARD work to accomplish this!), all with a rating between 1 and 5 stars (i manage music with the wonderful iTunes), all saved on hard disk / dvds following the “netlabel url/number of release” folder scheme (example: “thinner.cc/thn084).
Since I joined “the moviment” (what’s a nice term to describe netaudio fanboys!), I stumbled upon a lot of shit.. that pushed me often to think like “this people has nothing better to do than waste all this bandwidth to upload crappy mp3s?” 🙂 But when I discovered netlabels like Thinner.cc or ideology.de, or artist like Giraffe (12rec.net), Trailing Space (kyoto.scene.org), Leonel Castillo (groovear.com), Tang Kai (camomille.genshimedia.com) -to just list the first one I think about- I said to myself: “I have to keep downloading this stuff, there are many nice pearls around!”. Well, I don’t like commercial/”common” music (“common music” is what tvs ad radios push common people to listen to), I love to discover new bands and I always need good music in the background when I study or work or walk, so maybe these pre-requisites helped me a bit to join the movement 🙂 My point is: we have to build a platform to promote the good netlabel music and the good netlabels, and we have to take out from the business the crappy ones. That’s the only way to stimulate them to increase their releases quality and consecutively increase the quality of the whole netaudio world. More quality releases float around and less are the probabilities to lose a neo-adept ‘cause he/she stumbed upon a crappy release. We need a platform capable to aggregate all the best of the great netaudio-discovery tools around (Phlow, Free Album Galore, Jamendo etc) and push it into a clean designed website (a là Digg). We need a platform with strong social features, like community boards where people actively partecipate to (not like the silent boards actually available). We need a platform with “top-50 releases”, “top-10 netlabels”, “top netalbel of the year” etc charts, and places on these charts must be really hard to conquest! People must be able to vote them, to rate them, to fuck off them. In an ideal world, netaudio may be an alternative to commercial music, not a free and legal copy of it; this means that netaudio music must be all good, because there are not commercial reasons behind it (releases with 2 decent songs and 8 craps may be not allowed!). Summed up, this is what I think 🙂 too harsh, uhuh? 🙂
“An infrastructure is clearly needed. A centralized charting system is needed, much like last.fm.[..] A net audio charting system would not be primarily to keep track of sales, it would be to track popularity and to make it easier to find great net audio.”
True. But in the platform I imagine, people upload their .m3u playlist (read: “standard, multiplatform, multisoftware playlist format” – fuck .pls or windows media crap) full of the netaudio stuff they like and the system scans it and suggests similar artist/albums (for the scanning engine, a source of inspiration could be iTunesregistry.com).
“Lastly, as I mentioned in a previous blocSonic blog post, netlabels need to make their sites USER-FRIENDLY. Experimental navigation is all well-and-good, but that won’t gain you new listeners. Why else would you run a netlabel but to provide net artists with a means to gain new listeners? Some netlabels I’ve been to are unbearable to navigate ? hidden links, image rollovers, clever names for links to the release page. All that stuff is so 1997. [..]”
It seems I’m reading the Bible here 🙂 I fuckin agree with you dude. Some netlabels sites are so badly designed that navigation is a pain. Sometimes tools like DownThemAll (a great Firefox extension to manage downloads) helps a lot into getting the “stuff” (mp3s, artworks, pdfs) to your harddrive without pain, but you need to know some geeky tricks to take advantage of it. And usually a common Internet user doesn’t know those tricks 🙂 So he/she will surely give up and point his/her nice (?) Internet Explorer to other sites. Somebody interested into start up yet another netlabel, should visit sites like Thinner.cc first: that’s an example of an usable website! It has a general catalogue, where all the releases available are nicely listed with release-code and cover in evidence; it has a dedicated page for every release, with links to: single mp3s, artwork or whole release zip; in every release page there are the description of the release and other useful info stuff as well. Just Perfect. And what about mp3 renaming scheme? Many netlabels have like 50-60 releases on their catalogues, but every mp3 is named like “i’m a foo.mp3” or “i’ma foo-DjBar-2007.mp3”. What a confusion! I think that the right way to rename netlabels mp3s is like “releasecode_tracknumber_artist_-_song.mp3” (example: “id068_03_Authist&DubOne!_-_blocSonic_Dub.mp3”). Some netlabels adopted it and i’m happy with it, but many other didn’t, so there is still some work to do. And what about tags? Tags are the most messed up aspect of netaudio scene. Thinner and few others netlabels adopted the following tagging scheme for “Album” tag: “[releasecode] Album title”. That may be THE standard for me. It works damn good when you manage your music collection using a software like iTunes (or Amarok, if you are a Linux user) that provides you a general view of your collection. Sorting by album will sort all your releases for netlabel and release code, what a nice thing 🙂 So you will know in a breath what releases you miss, what releases you have, what netlabel you like more etc. I do this kind of tagging myself since 3-4 years and It works greatly! Well, if you use Windows Media Player temp playlists to listen your stuff, you will not notice the difference 🙂
There is good netlabel stuff around here but we miss a centralized platform to promote it. We need more usable netlables sites, more charts, more social features, better tagging. It could be nice to share download-links lists to import in your favourite download manager, to improve the netaudio spreading. We have the ideas, but hey somebody must code them for us 🙂
eldino (aka ladproject), Italy
(* I sent this open letter via e-mail to Mike Gregoire, owner of blocSonic netlabel, but I didn’t get any reply. So I decided to publish it on my personal blog. Original article I refer to is available at: http://blocsonic.com/blog/an_infrastructure_for_take-over. *)