Several months ago, five netlabels that I admire and have often reviewed their releases at Acts of Silence released over 25 hours of music in one month. To put this is some perspective, on a real good day of music listening, I can enjoy about 6 hours of music. Usually I only get a chance to listen to two to four hours of music a day and sometimes, sadly, none. So these five netlabels released so much music that it would have taken me almost two weeks to listen to all of it. And I can tell you most definitely, I did not listen to all of their releases which is sad for the netlabel, but more so for the musician.
When we, the collective we, talk about the men and women who manage netlabels, we often refer to them as curators. Maybe the use of curator came about since publisher has always been in the domain of the print media and executive, as in record executive, was exactly what netlabels were rallying against.
In the fine art world, a curator is usually one has obtained a college degree or two and has trained extensively in the art and functionality of selecting, displaying and maintaining works of art. In the open culture music community, the curator doesn’t need any degree to start a netlabel, in fact, they do not need any experience what-so-ever to do so. And, even better, any lack of experience or degree does not disqualify one from being a successful netlabel curator.
For me a listener of open culture music, mainly through netlabels, the curator has many roles which Marc Weidenbaum covered quite effectively in If You’re Thinking of Starting a Netlabel. After writing about netlabel releases for almost two years now, I’d like to add one other item to the curator’s job: one who recommends music. Early in my life, I can remember sitting around a turntable with friends and playing each other music, introducing each other to some new sound from the streets of New York or some old tracks from New Orleans. For me, this sharing was one of the great joys to listening to music — that look in agreement when you played a friend some music you liked, or the utter elation of hearing some brand new sound that blew me away.
The main reason I blog and tweet about new open culture music is to spread the joy I receive from musicians who share their music. The musician share with me and I share with you. This joy of sharing and recommending of music should be one of the primary drives for all netlabel curators. When releasing a new album, the curator should be saying, “Hey, listen to this great sound. Man, you’ll really like it!”
Netlabels that do this are the ones I go back to over and over again. Pedro Leitão’s netlabel test tube is just one of many examples of netlabels who share free, legal music in a competent way. Since 2004, test tube has been releasing one or two Creative Commons albums a month. That’s probably somewhere around an hour of listening pleasure at a minimum a month, more if I really like it. But with test tube’s sparse release schedule, I find myself listening to everything they release. I might not like all of it, but I do listen to it all.
So if you are a netlabel curator and have some special need to release hours upon hours of music every month, please take a breath. Start limiting your releases. Most importantly, start saying, “No” to many of your submissions. Your listeners will appreciate it.