My net.label Monotonik on hiatus – RIP (?) 1996-2009

monoendSo, 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.)

[UPDATE: The entire Monotonik, Mono211, Mono catalog – including the .MP3s and .MODs converted to .MP3 – are now being uploaded to a YouTube channel and a SoundCloud page, making it even easier to listen to all the music. Also, Zach Bridier has added a Monotonik entry to his super-canonical Netlabels Archive with MP3 version of all releases and LOTS of rarities.]

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.

64 thoughts on “My net.label Monotonik on hiatus – RIP (?) 1996-2009

  1. I’ll always remember Monotonik as the place where I discovered netaudio, IDM, glitch, all that. It was the first netlabel I ever discovered — it defined the term for me.

    I wrote down some thoughts about what Monotonik has meant to me over the years:
    http://nightmorph.livejournal.com/180916.html

    So long, Monotonik. Thanks for incredibly enriching my life ten years ago, and continuing to do so even now.

  2. I first discovered Mono around 1999 when I downloaded a track from a private FTP server which I thought was by BT but turned out to be Four77 by Bay Tremore. The MP3 comment field had an email address in it so I emailed to say “Nice!” and he pointed me in your direction.

    Not only have I enjoyed the great music put out by Monotonik/Mono211 but I can honestly say that it has helped form my musical taste. In fact I seem to remember I made a website for Hoffmann once when I was a teenager and 10 years on I’m a professional web designer – maybe Mono shaped more than just my musical taste.

    Thanks so much for the time, energy and love you put into this, Simon.

  3. it was good as long as it lasted.. the complete Monotonik cataloque will remain on my playlist for the rest of my life. thank you for the soundtrack of my life.

  4. @Gordon Hackman

    Thanks for having my debut album feature on Monotonik, else I couldn’t ever have reached true fans like Gordon. Simon, thanks for all and Gordon, thanks for listening and the feedback.

  5. Just want to say ‘thank you’. I was visiting monotonik site from time to time to discover some great tracks there, so I feel sad that another good netlabel disappears… Anyway, thank you very much for all those years of providing outstanding music.

  6. THANK YOU for everything yo’ve done with monotonik. Legendary stuff, you will be remember at all times. Best wishes and regards!

  7. I’ve been enoying Monotonik for a long time and the accessibility to top-quality tracks has made me a firm fan of the Netlabel concept. Sorry to see you go, and a major tahnk you for leaving the site up!

    And great news that you have the Boxed Set on archive.org – I downloaded it last night and am still listening to it.

  8. Hi Simon.

    Good days. Thanks for the trip down memorylane. I have been lots of fun. both when I was releasing on mono211 and while following and listing along all them years later.

    cheers mate 🙂

  9. A good job. A worthy labor. If you come back, I’ll listen anew. If not, you’ve done more than your part.

    And thanks so very much for introducing me to Mortimer Twang.

  10. This is crazy late,..

    Simon, you were an inspiration. One would likely never have existed during its time if it weren’t for your example and guidance (and sometimes borrowed roster). We never speak anymore, but the periods where we did and pondered the whole signal2noise issue, the future of netlabels, as well as the great music we were hearing around us; were times well spent. From mono to legaltorrents to your curration @ archive.org and more, your dedication was undeniable. I mean it with all sincerity when I say you helped make the net a better place.

    I wish you well in life and in all your endeavours. May good music follow you everywhere.

  11. I’d probabily still listenin…..to Corona, Haddaway, Cappella and stick to it lol well probabily not. But for sure I wouldn’t know there’s more around and that you gotta dig and tap into obscurity. Proud to have been one of the firstest with my friends back then in 1997-8 to showcase your music on our very little pirate FM, what a blast it has been!!! Good luck and thanks for everything

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