A netlabel is a record label that distributes music (mostly) online. According to Wikipedia:
The primary difference between netlabels and record labels is that netlabels emphasize free downloads, as opposed to physical publishing (CD, vinyl or DVD).
2005 is the year that netlabel music will reach a critical distribution mass. Netlabels have actually been around as long as the Mp3 format that is their mainstay, but they have been mostly an underground phenomenon, until now.
The netlabel scene branched from the demoscene, a computer subculture that combines the disciplines of programming, art, computer animation, and music. The demoscene is quite popular in parts of Europe, drawing thousands of attendees from around the world to annual demo parties (such as Assembly), but has never achieved critical mass in America.
Musicians from the demoscene began to form music groups and distribute their work in the form of music disks, which contained music in a special computer format called MODs, and usually a player interface, with information about the release.
Those same groups embraced the Mp3 format when it became available, and began to create better sounding productions, in a variety of electronic music genres. The new format was the beginning of the Netlabel as we know it today.
As time went on, more and more groups began to form and release music, but they weren’t very well connected, and there were few central resources to help people find them. That has all changed recently, with the emergence of blog technologies, such as RSS and Podcasting.
Podcasting is the latest buzzword from the blogosphere. What it means for you is that you can subscribe to websites that release audio files periodically. Once you’re subscribed, new episodes or releases are automatically downloaded to your computer. Most podcast clients even allow you to automatically download content to your portable Mp3 player (hence the derivative name).
That much wouldn’t be a big deal, but Apple recently announced podcast support in the new version of iTunes, and they announced a million new podcast subscriptions in the first two days. Podcasting was already getting fairly big on its own, but Apple officially kicked it into the mainstream. It is officially the next big thing on the internet.
That’s pretty cool for the podcasting community, but they’re about to get some help from an unlikely player. Along with RSS, tagging (in the folksonomy sense) is reaching critical mass this year, and, like podcasting, it’s getting some help from another major player — Yahoo! has launched a new public beta of a tag-based social bookmarking community called “MyWeb.”
Social tagging can help fans connect with other like minded people to share music that they’re enthusiastic about. Combine social tagging with RSS, and you get a community-based music suggestion list that points you to podcasts that you might enjoy.
Netlabels are poised to take advantage of all these recent developments, because they already employ podcast technology to stay connected with their audience, and most of their audience is already net savvy, and likely to become early adopters. All great news for independent musicians.
Some Quality Netlabel Resources
- Bevlar Music
- Phlow Netlabel Catalogue
- Knobtweakers: Free Mp3 Blog (full disclosure: Knobtweakers.net is owned by the author)