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.

9 thoughts on “A Note to Netlabel Curators

  1. Even if I only focused my with well curated net­la­bels, I find it impos­si­ble to keep up with the gigan­tic amount of music released evey hour. Even if I was only pay­ing atten­tion to cura­tors of cura­tors, I doubt it would help me. It looks like luck as a lot to do in my music dis­cov­er­ies, I have to make peace with the fact that I miss a lot inter­est­ing mate­r­ial. Some­where I find it a nice prob­lem to have, it means the netau­dio scene is alive and kick­ing all over the place.

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