Volker Tripp
Challenges for Netlabel-Heads

Session 1Netlabel Practice
RoomCassiopeia I

Volker Tripp, 35 years of age, is a legal entrepreneur from Berlin operating revision courses for law-students and trainee-lawyers in Berlin, Potsdam, Leipzig and Halle. He is also one of the heads of the netlabel iD.EOLOGY, responsible for legal issues, editorial work as well as artists and repertoire. His musical roots go back to the Amiga demo-scene of the early 1990’s, in the history of which he went down under the alias Jester with a considerable number of modfiles. These days he keeps releasing more ambient- and electro-style tracks as Oddjob on iD.EOLOGY.


When you first start running a netlabel, it’s a really exciting thing to do: almost free of cost, you can distribute exactly the kind of music you like worldwide. And since you want everyone to have it, you give it away for free. The progression that netlabels have made since this initial thought seems quite fascinating: from their early predecessors in the computer demo-scene during the 90’s, netlabels have developed into platforms that offer a wide range of professionally produced and carefully selected music for free download. The rise of the internet and the popularization of the .mp3 format has caused more and more conventional labels to release their music via the internet, so one might think that there’s only a thin line left between the average independent label and a netlabel.

If you’ve been running a netlabel for a couple of years, though, you might think differently. Netlabels are still fairly much of a subscene-phenomenon. Even within the internet-community, only a minority knows about what netlabels do. Some of the artists who used to release their music through netlabels have wandered off to conventional labels. After all, the latter were able to offer the artists good money and good promotion for the release, and they had no problems with the artists joining collecting-societies. The non-commercial netlabel on the other hand cannot afford to give the artist any financial return and it has only limited capacities when it comes to promotion. And since collecting-societies impose fees even if you offer music by one of their members for free download, netlabels can’t either afford to work with artists who have joined a collecting-society. Worse still, if a netlabel-artist decides to become a member of a collecting-society, the netlabel needs to delete the entire back-catalogue of this artist if it wants to avoid fees. Given the tremendous popularity of music-community sites, specifically myspace.com, one might even wonder whether there’s a point in setting up a netlabel in the first place.

So if you take being a netlabel-head seriously, if you want to take it one step further or even if you only care about being able to continue with you’ve been doing in the past, you need to meet the challenges and start thinking about ways of bringing your releases to a wider audience and of opening up interesting perspectives for your artists. Since the problems netlabels face go back more or less directly to a lack of funds, I will examine several options for a netlabel to turn its work into profit.