Ever since the existence of digital music, there have been netlabels. Unfortunately, netlabels don’t last forever. Things happen, netlabels shut down, and sometimes the music gets wiped from the internet.

This birthed the idea of the Netlabel Archive; a website dedicated to preserving inactive netlabels that no longer have a home online.

What is a netlabel?

A netlabel is a virtual record label that distributes its music digitally online for free download. Some of these works are under different Creative Commons licenses. Most of these licenses encourage the works to be shared.

Netlabel history

Netlabels and online music groups got their start in the video game and demoscene communities in the early 90’s. The type of music files used in these demos were modular files (also known as MODs). These files were made on trackers, which are a type of music sequencer software that uses samples. These music groups started to upload their MODs to BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems), then they started to move to websites and FTP sites once the internet became more common in homes. Later on in the late 90’s, netlabels started to release artists’ works in MP3s and other various audio formats. More info on netlabels can be found here.

Netlabels being shutdown

There are many different reasons why netlabels shutdown. Some reasons may include loss of interest, lack of time, or not being able to afford to keep their website running. Whatever the case may be, it’s still very unfortunate to see hard work disappear and be forgotten.

Preserving netlabels

Our goal for the Netlabel Archive is to find and preserve as many inactive netlabels as we possibly can. The best place to keep these netlabels on a more permanent place online is the Internet Archive, which is currently one of the largest digital libraries out there.

Tracker file conversions

Most of the early netlabel releases were tracker files (.MOD, .XM, .IT, .S3M, etc). Some current software that can play these files are VLC Media Player,  OpenMPT, and XMPlay.

However, these files aren’t that common anymore and you have to download additional software just to play them. For these releases we’ve converted them to two different audio formats for easier consumption, FLAC (lossless) and MP3 (lossy). The original .MOD files for the Amiga are in mono (except the ones that are intended for stereo) and the other formats (.XM, .IT, etc) are in stereo. All of the conversions have been normalized to give the tracks a more equal audio level. All of the text files from these releases have been converted to PNG image files for easier access.

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