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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

What’s Japanese for “Netlabel”?

1. 固有のウェブサイトを持つもの 2. soundcloud,bandcampなど既存のウェブサービスを使って運営しているもの 3. すでに運営していたレコードレーベルのサイドプロジェクトとしてのもの 

That text above is the first three rules from my netlabel manifesto, “If You’re Thinking of Starting a Netlabel …,” translated into Japanese. It’s very rewarding to see this sort of thing happen. This is at least the second time the piece has been translated from English into another language, the previous being Italian: “20 modi per distribuire musica in modo creativo.”

Netlabels, for those new to the concept, are online record labels that actively distribute their releases for free, with the willing, and enthusiastic, participation of the musicians who recorded the music. A sizable portion of the music covered in this site’s daily Downstream department originates on netlabels.

The original version of “If You’re Thinking …” was published on April 11 of this year in an attempt not so much to direct the flow of traffic among netlabels or scare away potential free-music moguls, as it was to list some useful, one would hope helpful, correctives. It was fascinating to me at the time, and sadly remains so now, how many netlabels neglect such useful tools as RSS feeds, streaming audio, and song-specific links (as opposed to massive Zip files).

Of course, despite this prevalent neglect, the netlabel community continues to flourish. As C. Reider pointed out in a recent reflection on the state of netlabels and their correlation to earlier networked cultures such as mail art and the cassette underground (“You Are Your Own Archive”), the exhaustive list of active netlabels accumulated by David Nemeth at actsofsilence.com now numbers over 500.

The Japanese edition of my netlabel piece (“ネットレーベルをはじめたいと思っているあなたへ”) was accomplished generously by Yutaka Nakashima, a Japanese native currently living in New York. Nakashima wrote an introduction to his edition of the piece, and added a few rules of his own for emphasis. When he sent me the link today to his post, he included this translation (into English) of his added rules, which are numbered to occur after the 21 on my list:

22. Don’t start yourself. Have some close friends to do it with you. 23. Use archive.org more! archive.org is a huge website and a community. 24. Make a label compilations sometimes. Its very useful for first time visitor of your label to understand.

He asked for my permission to do the translation, which was appreciated, though it certainly wasn’t necessary. My permission is inherent in the Creative Commons license that appears at the bottom of the pages of this website. Though the netlabel concept predates the Creative Commons, as envisioned by Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues, the former is deeply informed by the latter. There’s a sweet irony to the translations that have extended the conversation about my netlabel story. I wrote the piece to help spread the word about netlabels, about the growing cultural practice of actively releasing music for free distribution — but the same structure that allows for that music to flow freely has also allowed my article to.

The Nakashima translation appears on his website, The Polyhedron Formula, where he writes about various free-music releases posted not just on netlabels but via such services as Bandcamp.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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