Even though I am not French, Bastille Day has always been important to me. For the past four years however, the most important thing about July 14th has been the celebration of Netlabel Day.
Over the past three years 135 different internet-based recording labels (thus “netlabel”) have contributed to Netlabel Day. For the very first Netlabel Day, 76 netlabels collaborated for a total of 148 releases from all over the world. And the second year was even more successful: Not only did the numbers balloon to 94 labels and 192 releases, but also musicians around the world who released their music on netlabels staged Netlabel Day concerts and events in Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Slovenia, and elsewhere. And virtually everything is released with a Creative Commons license.
It’s an incredible, diverse event.
When Record Store Day began in 2007 it was already a bit of nostalgia. Napster had introduced P2P music in 1999. The iPod had been around for six years. The iPhone would be introduced two months later. The cost of hard drive space and broadband connections had plummeted in most of the world. The future of music was clearly digital and promoting something as obsolescent as brick-and-mortar stores selling vinyl was quaint at best.
Manuel Silva of Chile’s netlabel M.I.S.T. Records thought so, too. He wondered why people didn’t embrace the obvious reality of digital music distribution. So he decided to put together Netlabel Day, to showcase the best of the online independent music scene through widespread music releases (EPs, LPs, singles, compilations) as a response. As M. Silva wrote in the Netlabel Day manifesto:
As we said, the musical revolution supported by Internet is over, because this revolution is now the present of the music.
The “Major labels” still don’t get it, that’s why Record Store Day is dying, so we are offering you an alternative way to consume more and better music. Forget about the well-known artists… Netlabel Day is a space made by truly independent artists and labels for all the people who listen and support independent art movements.
In a direct acknowledgment of the digital future — the digital present, really — the first Netlabel Day bowed on July 14, 2015 — the 20th Anniversary of the MP3.
Particularly important to me is that Netlabel Day began not in the more ballyhooed music scenes of Europe and the United States, but rather in Chile.
For that reason it has a much more grassroots, international flavor. Many of the featured labels come from Chile and Argentina. These countries have a strong punk rock and progressive music tradition that has held on long after others. Consequently the music of Netlabel Day is not simply a lot of Euro-style electronica. There’s a goodly amount of electronic music, certainly, but there are also heavy doses of hip hop, contemporary classical, punk rock, dub, reggae, and more. Most of the releases are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
I’ve collected about six gigabytes or so of Creative Commons-licensed music from Netlabel Day in the last three years. I plan on adding another two or so if tradition holds.
That probably sounds daunting. It is definitely an incredible amount of music, most of it unfamiliar to many people. But fear not. If you are looking for a good sample of Netlabel Day music, the masterful Pete Cogle has put together multiple podcasts featuring some of the best of the music from those labels and artists involved in Netlabel Day as part of his exceptional PCPodcast. His five-part series from last year was particularly inspired, and this year’s aren’t too shabby either.
I recommend starting with Netlabel Day 2017 Part 2 or Part 4 to get a good sampling of this fine selection of music. From there…well, there is much to explore. From quiet Indonesian post-rock to noisy Russian glitch to calm Hungarian dream pop to aggressive Argentinian hard rock and on to Mexican kazoo music and Brazilian neo-electro covers of Dave Brubeck, there is truly something for everyone to expand their musical palette.
And so you should.