What is it with free music? Faced with the 797 strong list of netlabels currently hosted by the Internet Archive, or the 12898 strong directory of Myspace music profiles, and the process of trawling through all of this artist-donated free music in order to narrow it down to some mp3s that you might actually want to listen to soon takes on the form of the sort of punishment which may well be handed out as one of the torments of hell. (I would leave it to the A&R men if I were you; if anyone deserves to begin serving out their diabolic sentence prematurely here on earth, let it be them).
But bundle those mp3s up together into a neat little package of, say, ten songs (lets call it an album!), which someone else has carefully selected, funded, polished up, artistically presented and for which the artist will be fully recompensed, and suddenly you can’t get enough of that there free music. There are gigabytes and gigabytes of free mp3s out there which the artist has voluntarily made available for your listening pleasure, if only you can be bothered to do a bit of weeding. But still it takes the traditional record label to kindly package the music up into a nice little release sized parcel with a brightly-coloured cover, spend a bunch on promotion, and then merely ask that in return you pay for the privilege of listening, to really turn you into a free music evangelist. I trust that the irony is not lost on you; the perceived worth of music that was always designated as free is never going to match up to the allure of the neatly presented finished product and the feeling that by downloading you are getting something valuable for nothing. Would that chancer’s mp3 blog really seem so exciting to you if he was handpicking fresh undiscovered talent hot of the Myspace player?
Clearly we have got things somewhat upside down, which is why you won’t find any links to the mp3 blog freeloaders on The Monobrow. We will however go out of our way to endorse the efforts of the netlabels who offer up literally hours of free music every week – all with the original artists’ consent. An often-overlooked and under-appreciated group of noble-minded individuals, both artists and labels alike could really use the kind of much-vaunted publicity push that the mp3 bloggers spuriously claim for the mountains of post-hype commercially released music that they normally give away.
Canadian netlabel Camommille for example has notched up an impressive 100 releases since 2002, a milestone which they have chosen to celebrate with the release of another three hours worth of “marvelously delicious free music” in the form of the 44 track Cycles compilation. A handful of names may already be familiar to you (Khonnor, Anders Ilar, Lackluster), but the majority probably won’t, which makes this as good an introduction into the legal underbelly of the free music scene as any.
With a thirteen artist graphic compilation of illustrations also thrown in for good measure, you could never accuse the netlabel crew of not putting in the effort. Which is not something that can be said for their most lazy mp3 blogger cousins, whose total journalistic contribution often amounts to little more than a wholly unimaginative list of Rapid Share links.