A net label is a website that offers free music. It is distinguished from a site that offers a random selection of tracks by these factors:
- The music is organised into titles, analogous to singles, EPs, albums and compilations
- Often the work of a single artist is the subject of a title
- Artwork accompanies the title, often of high resolution and intended for printing, so that jewel cases can be created for the title if burned to CD.
The music is given away for free. There are a number of reasons for this. The artist doesn’t want to release commercially, they are a hobbyist, the free work is promotional, etc. This means it’s legally free and legal to give to others. Often a Creative Commons licence is employed.
Those raised on a diet of commercial music will ask if the music is any good. In my opinion, the music from net labels is often very good in terms of skilled technical execution and aesthetic appeal. Rarely do I feel that a track is amateur. The point of the net label is to treat an artist’s music with respect and thus the resemblance to a commercial label operation.
I like music I can chill out to, so I have focussed on net labels that provide this type of music. Here is a list of sites that I consider to be the best.
- Alpine Chic: Swiss electronica at its best.
- iD.EOLOGY: German electronica, dub and hip hop.
- Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape: Awesome ephemeral compilations released every six weeks. A marketing vehicle for Mercedes, promoting it as a lifestyle brand. Each compilation is a mix of electronica, pop, RNB and hip hop, sometimes featuring known artists, but mostly a platform to present up-and-comers. As each new compilation is released, the previous is deleted, so these are collectables.
- Jahtari: Amazing blend of low-tech computer music and reggae and dub. It really works.
- Lo-Kiwi: Electronica.
- Petit Poulet Records: Electronica.
These sites vary in that they can be considered net labels for individual artists, in other words, their own label. They still present their music in titles, so I consider them net labels.
- Altus: Ambient electronica.
- Revolution Void: Nu Jazz and electronica.
- General Fuzz: Ambient electronica.
These sites are still good, but I don’t always like the music. That’s just my opinion of course. The music still has that skilled technical execution, so it’s still good.
- Monotonik & Friends: Huge repository of electronica and glitch/bleep (scratchy-sounding music created with low-tech computers). The titles vary widely in style, thus I don’t like everything on the site.
- Autoplate/Thinner: Sister sites that specialise in glitchy electronica.
- Electrobel: Electronica, some glitchy.
- Offaudio: Spanish site. Beatier, dancier electronica.
- One: Electronica.
Tagging is the one area in which they fall down. The tags are incomplete and lack artwork. Artwork is supplied separately, of course, except in the rarest of situations, and can be reformatted for use as album artwork. The Mixed Tapes are the worst, because the album tag is different for every song and the compilation flag is not used. I like fixing these tags, however, and this, in combination with my dissemination of the music, is my contribution to their efforts.
To keep track of the various releases, I tag the Grouping field with the website and the release number. Often there will be a specific release number, such as iD049 (iD.EOLOGY). If none, I number from the earliest, starting with 01. A title may end up with a Grouping tag something like this: http://www.ideology.de (iD049). I then create a smart playlist that looks for all tracks with http://www.ideology.de in the Grouping field, and that’s my iD.EOLOGY playlist.
Net labels have serious works available to you for free. Use them well to greatly expand your music library.