Interview with the italian Dharmasound Netlabel // Over the past couple of years, the Rome-based net-label dharmasound has put out nearly forty first-rate releases covering a wide range of music. Last Fall, Gianluigi Cocco - dharmasounds’ general manager and artistic director - was kind enough to take some time to talk a bit about the label, their philosophy of music, and their place in the net-label scene. Dave Kneifer talked for Phlow with the labelhead.

Interview done by Dave Keifer who does odd jobs for Dog Eared Records and releases music as Cagey House.

Phlow: Dharmasound has a really sharp website. It’s well organized, has a clean design, and a cool look. What kind of web design or technical advice would you give to somebody who was thinking of starting a netlabel?

Cocco: Actually we are working on the new website and it will be very innovative: we are trying to conceive a "visual" virtual place without any conventional web layout. Our goal is to let users feel comfortable with navigation and, mainly, give them a nice relaxing virtual environment. A netlabel-website is the "window on the real world" so it has to be very representative and give users a large number of services like streaming, previews, news, music-files in different format and different quality and, very important, a well organized catalog. For a netlabel like who has a multi-genre catalog, it's a priority to offer users a support to quickly navigate through releases and genres. We are now working on this particular issue and the new website will have a new catalog navigations logic based upon environments and colours.

Dharmasound Netlabel Cover 1

Phlow: You provide a means for a lot of interactivity as well. On the message boards, for instance, people can upload demos and news about releases and live dates. I think this kind of thing is one of the real advantages netlabels have over traditional label, which is that they can serve as a hub for a virtual - or even a physical community. Which raises my next questions: Did dharmasound grow out of an already existing community? Or do you feel that you’ve helped to create a new community?

Cocco: Dharmasound started out in 2005 from a small group of artists based in Italy. At that particular time we built up a small site with few releases and 4 or 5 visitors per day :-). In these two years we grew up in terms of catalog, artists, listeners and we also started a message board called dharmaboard which is our place to share free music, demos, informations and experiences with people, musicians and other netlabels. I's slowly growing up and I think it will give a good help to diffuse independent music released under Creative Commons License.

Phlow: I see that this past August you guys hosted a live event at a club in Rome that featured five dharmasound artists. How did that go? And do you plan on more in the future?

Cocco: I think live events are the "core" of a netlabel activity. Artists need to get out from the web to meet audience. OUTPUT event was a sort of introduction to dharmasound's music and it was a good opportunity to let people know that other music distribution models are possible. We are planning to increase our live activities and we're trying to involve other netlabels into a project that could be described as a sort of "international booking network."

Dharmasound Netlabel Cover 2

Phlow: Dharmasound has always focussed mostly Creative Commons tracks - free downloads in other words. But for a while you also had some tracks for sale–although you seem to have discontinued that. I was wondering why you no longer have the for-sale tracks? And also what your ideas are about net-labels as potential money-making operations?

Cocco: It was a sort of experiment. Almost one year ago we decided to ask users a donation for each download. Our goal was to cover web hosting costs and share the profits with artists. Obviously all the tracks were released under CC license and everyone was able to freely share music bought at, in other words it was a sort of "donation" or "contribution" rather than a traditional selling. But, though the price was very low (€ 0.50 per track), unfortunately the experiment was unsuccessful so we decided to go back to the roots: free download of all our releases!

We have to realize that we aim towards a different kind of "market" completely free and innovative, traditional distribution models are quickly dying and we have the great opportunity to build something new. I think at the moment netlabels are only able to earn money from the live activity organization. That's it. No sponsorships, sellings or wathever until we'll get bigger and we'll offer high-quality catalogs.

Phlow: Finally, what’s been your favorite experience while running dharmasound?

Cocco: The greatest experience was to meet interesting people (artists, musicians, collaborators). People from all over the world with completely different cultures and backgrounds. Let me give a big thanks to some of them: Stefano who was our artistic director since last month, Mari our graphic designer (I definitely love her works), Luca, Francesco and Alfredo who recently joined our staff doing a great work. Thank you guys!

Phlow: Thank you for the interview!