It’s just over five years since the very first Netaudio festival in Berne and six months since the last major event in the series: the Netaudio Berlin festival. Here in London we are busy planning for the third London issue, due to take place in May 2011. As part of the preparation we undertook a research project analysing how people use the Internet for creating and appreciating music and generally took some time to review how we want to develop the Netaudio London festival.
Within this article we aim to reflect on the core elements of a Netaudio festival, or given the polycultural, networked character of the various Netaudio festival projects, of Netaudio London specifically – our festival in the international series. As follows, we take account of the various forces that influence the Netaudio festival: the macro technological and economic change that has taken place over the last five years and the further changes that we anticipate. The outcome is an attempt at a Netaudio London 2011 manifesto.
Historically the term ‘netaudio’ is understood to loosely embrace music that relies on the Internet as a medium for distribution and/or a tool for creation. We would not want to guess who coined the word as such (since it is a fairly obvious combination) but the netaudio mailing list set up by the German De:Bug magazine definitely helped to popularise the word on this side of the Atlantic. The list, along with numerous online platforms including Phlow with its netlabel catalogue and Starfrosh with its free music podcast, quickly became the social online spaces for netaudio ‘heads’ and music junkies enthralled by masses of legally available new music. Independent record labels were presented with digitally savvy online twins: netlabels who choose to distribute music at no charge to the consumer, largely within the Creative Commons frameworks. As with all musical ‘revolutions’ the netaudio scene emerged against a backdrop of public outrage and structural reform, in this case music piracy and the economic meltdown as of the demise of physical music formats and retail outlets.
The years 2000 to 2005 can be seen as the formative years for ‘netaudio’ as a subcultural scene. A scene that can claim to be part of the pioneering movement that not only made music available via the Internet medium, but one that explored the possibilities of the network in bringing musicians and music consumers into conversation with each other – thus helping to build a creative and social space where new music can thrive.
The past five years (2005 – 2010) brought challenges to these emerging social and cultural online spaces: the Internet as a communication medium matured and reached an incredible technological complexity. The DIY approach championed by netlabels in managing everything from A&R to programming the Flash music player does no longer produce the most musician- or consumer-friendly outcome: today we expect music to be available in real time, with social network tools, SEO (Search Engine Optimization, comment from the editor) and micro payment system attached to it, but also to be synced across various commercial platforms that emerged over the last years – something that is often not compatible with free music. The proliferation of on demand services like Spotify and WE7 provide a convenient, consumer friendly benchmark for music consumption.
What’s more, free music distribution is no longer an unique selling point for netlabels – music give-aways and remix competitions are the bread-and-butter of today’s music marketing. Netlabels – largely defined by their form of music distribution – find themselves dissolved in the wider cultural and economic context of independent music. Similarly, past Netaudio festival topics are today widely featured at the major music industry showcases such as SWSX, The Great Escape and Amsterdam Dance Event – netaudio finds its raison d’etre in question.
Yet, when looking at new forms of musical practice, we find that there is still a pioneering scene creating the most amazing output of new music and sounds. Our recent research uncovered fascinating collaborative practice facilitated by emerging technologies, new interpretations of the meaning of live performance with software tools, the continuing exploration of the ever so tempting real time, long distance musical process and mindbogglingly beautiful new instruments and new forms of musicianship.
Collaborative musical practice enabled by network technologies is, of course, nothing new as such. It reached a first level of popularisation with the development of the MIDI standard, but started well before. But, new forms of musical creation, or new music as such is what what keeps exciting us most. Critical theory coupled with a hyper-innovative music technology sector has raised massive expectations on new forms of musical composition and performance. With Netaudio London, we are keen to seek out and present the leading figures in this polymorphic pool of activity: musicians that revolutionise the way we see technology and that live up to the challenges presented by digital tools on intuition and live performance. Netaudio London wants to showcase and champion music that reaches new creative heights by utilising the emerging digital and networked technologies: projects that challenge or augment traditional musicianship with the latest digital processes.
This shift from distribution and economical structures to emerging creative practice is backed by our ongoing commitment to developing new talent and sharing skills – the fundamental qualities of the netaudio/netlabel DIY ‘scene’. Whilst free music distribution has and is playing an important role in this strive for new creative output, it is as means to an end rather than defining quality. By realigning our programme focus from distribution to creation of music, we remain true to our core values: to showcase and promote the emerging talent of an online music culture as well as to share the skills amongst practitioners. Netaudio London 2011 will do this with plenty of opportunities for emerging musicians to showcase their work whilst providing extensive workshop sessions and conference programme to facilitate a creative, cultural and technological exchange of skills and knowledge.
London, 30 June 2010
Developing Netaudio London 2011 von Andi Studer & Matt Spendlove steht unter einer Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lizenz.