Before I start, I need to write the perfunctaroy statement that musicians have the right to make music a financial art. Others choose not to have money taint their art. I side with the latter.
Simply, netlabels are music labels are an avenue for musicians to legally give their music away for free. This strange distribution system, where no money changes hands, was born out of frustration with the corrupt recording industry, “the demo scene, tape labels and in the DIY movement of the 1980s.”* In the free music scene, many musicians and netlabels have been using Creative Commons licensing in the distribution of their music. Creative Commons (or CC) provides copyright licensing that allows artists and the public to share works (words, music, photos, etc.) based upon conditions chosen by the artist: attribution, allow or disallow commercial use, and allow or disallow the remixing of the work.
For me, netlabels are friends that recommend music. They are the radio station DJ, the record store clerk and the music reviewer all wrapped up into one. They are not some big conglomerate pushing music out to the massess nor are they the small conceirge label that only releases music that they can sell. Netlabels release only music they like. There is no need for profit or breaking even. As a matter of fact, netlabels are a loss leader, usually in time spent and a few dollars here and there for websites and internet access.
Here are a list of a few experimental netlabels that release free works (hopefully, under CC licensing) and quite active at this time. Some of these netlabels are multi-genre, but they have a strong focus on experimental work. This is nowhere near a complete list, rather just a a starting point. For a much longer list, check out my netlabel list. Apologies to anyone that thought their netlabel list should be on this brief post and did not appear on it.
Buddhist on Fire: Run by John Tocher, Buddhist on Fire might be considered more of a dark ambient label, but there are always some experimental gems nestled in there. Tocher, who also does a podcast called Sadayatana, has run Buddhist on Fire since late 2011 out of Texas.
Control Valve: Run by Robert H. Smith aka Chefkirk aka _whALe_ pLAtE_, Control Valve puts out some fucked-up experimental music. Smith has been running Control Valve since January 2011, but before that he ran TiBProd, another netlabel, 2003 to 2009. Control Valve doesn’t care so much about copyright, but the music they release make my dogs howl.
Deep White Sound: Run by DB Amorin, Deep White Sound is part experimental music and part audio visual and all avant-garde. The netlabel is out of Portland, Oregon and has been at it since 2005. Each quarter or so, Deep White Sound drops a batch of releases, some sound, some visual, always interesting.
DMT Records: Run by Vito for the last year or so, DMT Records is an off-shoot of DMT Tapes FL. Though some in both genres might not consider vaporwave experimental, I do. If you haven’t listened to vaporwave this is a fine place to start.
Eg0cide Productions: Run by The Ghost Between Strings, Eg0cide, a French netlbel, has been in production since 2007. Most of the releases on Eg0cide are licensed under the derivative Creative Commons which allows other artists to remix the work.
Enough Records: Goodness, Enough Records seems to be the grandaddy of them all as it was founded in 2001 by ps, Fred, and H4rv3st. Since 2003, ps has been doing this on his own and releasing some incredible work over the years. Enough Records is out of Portugal.
Etched Traumas: Run by Joseph Ba out of Athens, Greece, Etched Traumas is a multi-genre netlabel since 2009.
Fwonk*: Run by Gordon Chapman-Fox aka Heskin Radiophonic, Fwonk* is a multi-genre netlabel since 2008. Fwonk* is out of England.
Haze: Run by Dzmitry Ladzes, aka Aortha, Haze has been releasing experimental works roughly once per week since mid-2007. All the releases are licensed under CC that allows remixing. Haze is out of Belarus.
Linear Obsessional: Run by Richard Sanderson, Linear Obsessioal has been relasing experimental and improvisational music since early 2012. All the releases are licensed under CC that allows remixing. Linear Obsessional is out of England.
Mahorka: Run by Ivo Plamenov Petrov, Mahorka has been releasing experimental music since 2004. All the releases are licensed under CC that allows remixing. Mahorka is out of Bulgaria.
Pan y Rosas Discos: Run by Keith Helt, Pan y Rosas Discos has been releasing experimental and improvisational music since 2009. Pan y Rosas Discos is out of Chicago.
Panospria: Run by Constantine Katsiris, aka Scant Intone, Panospria has been released experimental music since 2004. Katsiris also has been releasing music on No Type since 1998, making it older than Enough Records. Panospria is out of Canada.
Petroglyph Music: Run by Rune Martinsen and Øystein Jørgensen, Petroglyphic Music have released over 400 releases since 2012. Petroglyph Music is out of Norway.
Plataforma Records: Run by Max Chami, Plataforma Records has been releasing experimental music since 2013. Plataforma Records is out of Brazil.
Plus Timbre: Run by Chris Silver T, Plus Timbre is relatively new to the scene, though Christ Silver T is not. Plus Timbre, out of Athens, Greece, has been releasing music since late 2014.
Power Moves: Run by Kevin Cahill, Power Moves is an experimental cassette label that also releases its works under Creative Commons licensing. Power Moves is out of Canada.
Signals from Arkhaim: Run by Jan Faix, aka Count Portmon, Signals from Arkaim has been releasing experimental music since late 2012. Signals from Arkaim is out of the Czech Republic.
suRRism-Phonoethics: Run by Jaan Patterson, suRRism-Phonoethics has been releasing experimental music since 2010. suRRism-Phonoethics is out of Germany.
Tape-Safe: Run by Lorsen, aka Slo-Blo, and Rafael González, Tape-Safe has been releasing experimental music since 2012. Tape-Safe is out of Belgium.
Welcome Beauty Sounds: Another vaporwave netlabel though much is not know about it. Welcome Beauty Sounds might be run by a guy named Rob and it’s probably from somewhere in the States.
* Netlabels and demoratization of the recording industry by Patryk Galuszka