So, it would appear to have come to ‘End Of An Era – Pt.II’ for my electronic music net.label Monotonik, which I’ve been running since 1996 in .MOD and .MP3 form. In that time, we’ve put out over 350 free-to-download releases, initially spanning all forms of electronic music, but settling down into what you might call idm.
There’s a lot to be proud of in our history, which started with the label being called Mono, then a split into two ‘sister labels’, Mono211 and Monotonik, and then a concentration on Monotonik for the last few years. For starters, there’s the fact that our discography has almost 2.5 million plays on Last.fm and the MP3 releases are fully documented on Discogs.com by fans and collectors.
And between the main site and the Archive.org collection, there’s been millions of downloads of our music over the past 13 years. (If you want to start somewhere, try Christopher Whaley’s ’10 Years Of Monotonik’ mix.)
While I’m not saying we wouldn’t do _something_ with Monotonik in the future, I’ve been building up a backlog of releases for much of this year, to little releasing effect. So I’ve decided to debut almost a year’s worth of great content – six releases – at once, and go on hiatus with the label. The releases we’re putting out now are:
- MTK214: Malty Media – ‘Buk Buk Buk EP’ – a New Zealand duo’s Orb-esque sample-strewn frippery.
- MTK215: Casimir’s Blake – ‘The Silence In Fragile Space’ – a UK artist’s full drifting album-length stellar odyssey.
- MTK216: Clark Vent – ‘Scene Sexshun’ – bleepy super-swift idm goodness from another pseudonym of Finnish artist Flutterspot.
- MTK217: Kuu – ‘Pixels EP’ – veteran Monotonik artist Substance returns with uptempo idm/breaks gorgeousness.
- MTK218: Dead Eros – ‘Bone Mountain’ – another stalwart Mtk releaser ends things out with spiky U.S. electronic goodness.
- MTK219: Mike Kidd – ‘Impermanence EP’ – nothing lasts forever, as this drum and melody-strewn debut exhibits gloriously enough.
We don’t intend to release anything else for the foreseeable future and are closed for demo submissions. And in case this really is the end, some things I’d like to highlight as particularly memorable or important to me over the years of running Mono:
- The early days of releasing .MODs. At that time, Mono was birthed out of the Amiga and PC demo-scenes, which I was active in as a musician from 1988 to 1996 or so, and the idea of releasing standalone ‘packaged’ music – without a demo or a music-disc alongside it – was a little bit odd.
But some of the early releases from Lackluster (under his Distance pseudonym) and the amazing Mortimer Twang still resonate with me the most, despite the primitive 4-track MIDI-like data + samples + primitive FX tech behind them. (The Mono box sets site, done by a fan, has MP3 versions of all of the early releases.)
- There’s been some interesting media crossovers, including the soundtrack to Tank Racer, a PlayStation and PC game that I was project lead on at Kuju Entertainment. (Less nepotism than ‘we don’t have much money for a soundtrack, uhh…’.) We also got invited to Ars Electronica in Austria, soundtracked the Webby-nominated (and still going) SpamRadio.com, and got music used in a multitude of neat places.
- Some of the amazing artists that we’ve helped to popularize along the way, and whose music I personally adore. I’ve already mentioned Lackluster, but other highlights include the amazing Grandma/Khonnor, the wonderfully gifted Bliss and S.T., the absolutely unique Vim!, and so many others, it beggars belief.
So why shut down a good thing? Well, there are some good reasons. Firstly, there’s the signal to noise ratio of people releasing music online. When we started out in 1996, .MP3s weren’t even widely used, thanks to bandwidth and CPU-related decoding issues. In 1999, we were some of the first people offering tracks, EPs and albums for free on MP3.
But context has changed. If you consider that on Archive.org’s netlabels section alone, I’ve set up more than 1300 online labels for people – let alone the masses of physical labels moving into digital and individual artists giving away music electronically – it’s difficult to stand out. This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to promotion, which I don’t, due to my other interests.
And in the end, what’s the difference between releasing something for free on your own site, or via Monotonik? An implied rubber stamp and somewhat (but only somewhat) increased traffic, most likely. I started this label when MP3s weren’t even available online, and now we’ve got all the way to high-quality streaming music from any artist you can think of, via Last.fm and other sites.
The landscape has completely shifted. The concept of a virtual label still has some value, and if I had more time, I’d like to explore that further. But there’s too much noise and not enough signal, and this seems like a great time to acknowledge that and step back.
Finally, some thank you-s to people without which this wouldn’t have been possible. Many thanks to _all_ the artists, of course, but to Tommy Van Leeuwen, Scene.org and Archive.org for the hosting space, Ossi Boelex and Dudge for helping me keep up with release propagating via MySpace/Last.fm, etc, and everyone who has submitted or listened over the years. It’s been a blast.