interview by Teryal
The Vancouver-based netlabel Xynthetic goes radical and offers free quality donwloads of all of its IDM-electro-techno catalogue, demonstrating a new indie direction of the underground music market. THE DOSE now asks the two guys behind the scenes: Josh Garrett and Graeme Foote.
THE DOSE: Your label based on online distribution and Creative Commons would be a prototype for the upcoming underground labels. How the idea of launching the project came?
GRAEME: Josh and I had been tossing around ideas for booking/promotional ventures for a while and after discussing the logistics of them all - decided to put our love of music into something tangible. We both have extensive musical backgrounds and have seen the rise of music sharing show the bar being lowered for the quality of music being released. And on the flipside of that we saw really excellent artists getting passed up. Xynthetic is our way of putting out quality music in such a way that it remains focused on the artists and not about making money.
JOSH: This is something I've been thinking of doing for quite a while. I have done some releases through en:peg digital ( www.enpeg.com) and with Stratagem ( www.stratagem-musik. com) and had very good results and feedback from people downloading those releases. Previously I released with a couple labels that released more traditional CDs and vinyl EPs and I found that the online releases I did the same year as the CD releases were getting more attention and more people were listening to them. Ultimately, that's my goal as an artist is to have people listening to my music and to attract an audience.
THE DOSE: How do you promote your artists exactly? What do you think, are your efforts effective enough?
GRAEME: For the most part we are using online methods of delivery for the promotion of the label - forums, mailing lists, and online communities - and through these avenues have reached quite a few people already and have come across some amazing musicians. In addition to that we treat this as we would treat a label that was delivering product - press releases to magazines and newspapers and promo for DJ's and radio shows. These are in the format of both CD-R's and digital downloads of the new albums before we release them to the general public.
JOSH: One of the best things we can do is to work with larger established artists like Dryft, Exillon, and Mochipet to hook listeners into checking us out. I'm sure we have room for improvement, and this is really new territory in a lot of ways. Europe is pretty far ahead of North America in understanding netlabels and appreciating what they can do. A lot of the North American audience is still tied to the idea that something isn't a real release unless you spent a bunch of money manufacturing some kind of physical delivery media.
THE DOSE: It's no surprise that your songs are DRM-free. In the meanwhile it seems that some big online distributors such FNAC, Virginmega (France) and Puretracks (Canada) go to DRM-free as well and Steve Jobs of iTunes also rose the issue. What do you think how will this sequel affect the online market? What will be the major label's reaction in your opinion?
JOSH: I think ultimately everyone will go DRM-free, because they will have to. DRM tends to basically just inconvenience the listener / consumer of media. If the consumer is inconvenienced they will go somewhere more convenient. For example, Beatport.com and Bleep.com make tracks available DRM-free, but iTunes currently does not. I, personally, am way more likely to buy from Beatport or Bleep based on that alone. I can now do what I want with the files.
GRAEME: With the advent of iPod's and other mp3 listening devices - you see more and more people using the digital format and shelving their CD's after ripping them to their hard drive and just taking their music collection with them. As for the majors reaction? I think they are panicking now after trying to generate revenue by using value-adds to their packaging, and seeing sales still decline. Virgin/V2 is a case in point - they dropped Moby from their label and are going strictly digital download for its entire back catalogue. If someone with the track record such as Moby can get dropped by its label - then there is major shift in thinking coming towards the digital medium.
THE DOSE: Although you distribute high-quality mp3s, the quality-fanatic guys would say: "hey, the dynamic range of mp3 is still far from satisfying." What's your solution for this camp of music listeners who place the quality to the first place and want to enjoy their favorite musicians with cool dynamics?
JOSH: The quality of 320 k-bit MP3s vs. CD vs. vinyl vs. whatever future formats that will be coming along to a large degree is subjective and based on psychoacoustics and listener expectations. The music we're releasing is basically dance music produced with analog gear and software which in itself somewhat constrains the overall dynamic range of the original sound source... we're not recording philharmonic symphonies, so to a degree the issue of sound purity is not as rigorous as it would be for Jazz or Classical recordings. Ultimately, though, we want to reproduce the artist's work as faithfully as possible.
THE DOSE: In connection with the previous one: are you going to release songs in pure quality format such as FLAC?
JOSH: The biggest problem that we would face making FLAC versions of the releases available is that FLAC is about 50% the size of a WAV file, so for stereo that's roughly 5 MB per minute of recorded audio. That would potentially put us in a place where we would have to charge for the releases to cover our bandwidth usage. If we found there was demand for FLAC versions of the releases we would certainly look into the feasibility of it. If we move into charging for some releases we would make FLAC versions available as a download option.
THE DOSE: Would you ever produce in traditional CD-format if there's a certain need or that's totally out of question?
GRAEME: I think if the demand is there, we will do what we can to satisfy that demand - and if that means that people keep asking us for cd's then we will seriously look at the costs and benefits of providing a cd.
JOSH: We really believe that music is moving toward digital delivery and that vinyl is making a comeback, so those are the directions that we plan to go.
THE DOSE: A bit more personal question in the end. What's your most memorable music experience and what forthcoming release of 2007 are you waiting for the most (besides yours, of course)?
JOSH: I was 15 I got to see the Residents perform Cube-E in San Francisco. Those guys are long time heroes of mine, so it was magical getting to see that show. Also, being part of the Detroit community between 1992 and 1996... those were amazing times and those of us who experienced it together are still a family, regardless of where we are now. Today I look forward to hearing anything that Adam Beyer is doing.
GRAEME: I would have to say my most memorable musical experience has got to be bringing Gridlock up to Vancouver for a one-off show. Nowadays there is a label that I am very much looking forward to and that is Spor's label Lifted Music ( www.liftedmusic.co.uk). These guys are bringing some dark and dirty drum and bass and all the artists involved are worth paying attention to.
THE DOSE: Thanks for this interview, guys, we wish you the best of success for the future!
JOSH & GRAEME: Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to talk about what we're doing!