What Happened To The Net Label Anyway?

This is a statement to all of those who might be wondering “wait.. weren’t you guys a creative commons net label?”

Just what is a net label anyhow?

In 2009, net labels were still strong but it wasn’t until a couple years later that they peaked and started to wane.

Why is this?

The easiest answer: The convenience of streaming.

Prior to streaming services you couldn’t find music very easily.

You also couldn’t sell music very easily without having to produce a lot of CDs, tour, etc. It was the era of the ‘Myspace musician’, a lofty idea that perpetrated that you too could get signed to a major record label deal if you had a musician’s profile. Bandcamp and Soundcloud didn’t exist yet and the pay what you want model was being tested by fed up major acts like Radiohead, or better yet Trent Reznor and Saul Williams for ‘Niggy Tardust’

This is where more and more net labels stepped in but it’s not where they’re from.

Net labels started even before MySpace during the demoscene’s peak. [I won’t get into what the demo scene is, because that’s a whole different animal.] The gist of what the demo scene is computer programming and music meet to make amazing feats of code to provide visuals and music. Full songs and animations with a few kilobytes. The demoscene and music trackers overlap and this is where the net label phenomenon came from. Net labels were about spreading music and many people outside the scene came to contribute.

Most net labels in 2009 (and before) did not charge money. The infrastructure just wasn’t there for a lot of people. You could upload music to a few places and one of those places was Archive.org [a few scene specific others too].

Our beginning was the end of net labels

As the years went on we saw that our term “net label” was being bastardized in meaning by well intentioned people who wanted to start a record label for profit but denote it was a digital label. Over time they completely co-opted the term “net label”. A term which if you see it today you can assume that they’re likely a commercial label, dead/defunct. It’s sad to say but very rarely does a more traditional Creative Commons net label get founded any time past 2015.

And what of the commons?

In general today interest in the Creative Commons seems to be a bedrock of commercial exploitation for people to get commercial grade work for free. While the artist gains “exposure” which in today’s model is hardly a valuable benefit outside of a few successful outliers who would have been successful anyway. Additionally all Creative Commons licenses seemed to get ignored by the downloading parties with little to no enforcement at all. If you try to correct someone about not providing attribution for example, usually you’re ignored or met with hostility. It becomes more of a chore to license work in this way again for very little added benefit.

Past, present, and future is tense

Free Range Beats was not something that was going to fade away as easily as netlabels of the past. After all the years gone by I didn’t want to be the last net label to shut off the light and history closes the door on the whole thing.

It operates at a loss every year and so we began working with artists to ford ahead to something new, but the same in a lot of ways: transparent and with low overhead. It’s not a plan that will lead to success but it’s a plan that would allow us to do what we do, preserve our netlabel history, but maybe pay the hosting bill too.

Proud of the net label past but I did not want the label to become a part of history and join the big old list of defunct, dead and depreciated Creative Commons netlabels. Hopefully you all will understand.

Thank you for helping me back FRB what it is today.