Looking for some good music to listen to? Don’t want to support RIAA-backed record labels? Try grabbing some tunes from a Netlabel (a.k.a. online label, web label, or MP3 label). The name pretty much explains what they are: record labels that use the Internet as their primary means of distribution. The big difference between a Netlabel and a traditional one is that they offer their music free of charge. Music on these labels is generally released under a Creative Commons License that will allow you to listen to, distribute, display and perform the music for free so long as you make others aware of the terms of the license and give the original author credit. You may not profit from any of the music under the license terms that labels list their releases under unless you get the original authors permission, and you usually aren’t allowed to make derivative works of the music without the original authors permission. Please respect the artists wishes and obtain permission before doing anything prohibited under the CCL terms the Netlabel has listed on their website.
The types of music available varies, but the dominant style is definitely electronic music and all of its sub-genres. So if that’s not your cup ‘o tea you may have to do a little digging before you find something you like, but I’d definitely recommend looking around. There’s a lot of good free music out there waiting to be found, either created by artists who do it for the love of it rather than for monetary gain or who just haven’t been signed by a traditional label yet (if you see a button for donations or if the label has a store, please feel free to support the labels and their artists).
There are two websites that I know of that contain a directory of labels. One of those websites is called Netlables.org, they offer categorized list of labels and will surely prove useful in helping you find something you’ll like. In addition to Netlabels.org, you can also find a directory on the Internet Archive.
To get you started, below are a couple of my favorite labels along with links to some of the best artists featured on each.
“thinner is releasing electronic music in digital file formats under creative commons license. the netlabel exists since 1998 and enjoys worldwide critical acclaim for its music. it was founded by thomas jaldemark and is today operated by sebastian redenz and ole schulte as leading parts of an international team. the headquater is based in frankfurt am main, germany. till today, thinner productions had accumulated over two million mp3 downloads.”
Thinner is definitely among the best, and one of my personal favorites. Among the the artists featured on Thinner, a few of the most noteworthy are Das Kraftfuttermischwerk, Benfay, Paul Keeley, Selffish and Digitalverein. Of course, if you like any kind of electronic music I highly recommend checking out all of the artists on Thinner.
“Monotonik has released over 300 tracks from a variety of talented idm-ish electronic musicians from all over the world, including such artists as Lackluster (DeFocus/Merck), Bogdan Raczynski (Rephlex), Sense (Neo-Ouija), Tim Koch (Surgery/DeFocus), BrothomStates (Warp), Proem (Merck/Hydrant), Fun Tourist (Worm Interface/Sony Finland), Vim! (Surgery/Oggum), and many more.
Monotonik and its sister breakbeat sublabel Mono211 have been through a lot since ’96. We’ve been featured in “Spin” magazine, have soundtracked a Sony Playstation game, were invited exhibitors at the Ars Electronica festival in Austria, have been played out on radio stations from Australia to Slovenia, featured on a Webby-nominated weirdass radio station, and have had millions of downloads of our tracks.
If you like the music we release, please support the real-world (CD/vinyl) releases of our artists, or if you’re a label owner, sign them up to a deal.”
Some of my favorite artists from Monotonik are Braces Tower, Flutterspot (Releases: First, Second), Izmar (Releases: First, Second, Third), Planet Boelex (Releases: First, Second, Third, Fourth) and Transient (Releases: First, Second, Third, Fourth). Some of the more noteworthy releases on their breakbeat-focused sublabel “Mono211” are from Hoffman (Releases: First, Second), Izmar (Releases: First, Second) and Vinyl Matt. Of course, these are just some of my top picks, there’s plenty of good stuff that I haven’t listed so be sure to give the rest of the archive a listen.
“Exegene is a drum and bass netlabel, started up in August 2004 bringing you all dark, breaky and atmospheric styles of drum and bass. Featuring music from, Alpha Omega, Auan, Bad Mammal, Beatokko, Beckett, Blal, Buzz, Cube, Cartridge, Dissident, Dozuki, dgoHn, Enicma, Fucoza, ICR, Kondencuotas Pienas, Macc, Malevolent Wavelength, Madcap, Martsman, Medium, MF, Morphy, Nekura*, NSF Crew, oS, Paradigm X, Peet, Process, Psychodelic, Salamandra, Sileni, Snaper, Ricky Force, RMF, Temulent, The Destruction Process, Throttler & Wilsh.”
A great label for brain-rattling Drum & Bass. Unfortunately, their official site seems to be down (has been for over a month now). I don’t know if they’ve shut down or if they’re just having hosting troubles, but luckily you can still get all of Exegene’s releases from the Internet Archive. Nearly every release on Exegene is good, with a couple of my favorites coming from Beatokko and Ricky Force.
As I stated near the beginning of this article, if electronic music doesn’t strike your fancy then I suggest that you either go to Netlabels.org or the Internet Archive and look for labels that focus on other genres. There should be at least one label out there that you can find some music on unless you have very specific musical tastes and can’t enjoy anything else.
There’s a lot of free music out there waiting for you to listen to it. So download a few tracks, load up your favorite media player and enjoy.