In the world of net audio, much is going on. New netlabels pop up every day. ccMixter's contests draw more and more remixers into their fray. Jamendo continually boasts new CC'd albums. New netlabels/releases are are frequently being added to Internet Archive. I think that it's safe to say that every day new listeners are being introduced to net audio. It's also safe to say, that if these new listeners hear just a couple net audio gems that they connect to, they're more-likely to overcome their first inclination to think that free equals uninteresting, unprofessional or simply bad. Once a listener realizes that net audio is as good or better than mainstream music, they're in. They're part of the movement. They begin to explore the net audio world. The more you explore and listen to net audio, the less you're influenced by the mainstream music-industry. Wouldn't it be great if it were easier for these new listeners to find GREAT new net audio? What can be done to make it easier to dig through the immense numbers of net audio releases?
An infrastructure is clearly needed. A centralized charting system is needed, much like last.fm. In fact, last.fm could be used, but the numbers of mainstream listens still far outweigh net audio listens and as such, net audio releases never get charted in the site-wide charts, not to mention the fact that media giant CBS just purchased them and will more than likely screw up the community experience that has been built. A net audio charting system would not be primarily to keep track of sales, it would be to track popularity and to make it easier to find great net audio.
A greater number of dependable online 'press' coverage of net audio releases are also needed. Sites like "Black Sweater, White Cat", "Free Albums Galore", "ccNeLaS" and "Remixtures" all set the bar high with their excellent coverage. We need a larger network of sites like theirs to help net artists/labels gain new listeners.
Along with written coverage provided by bloggers, a network of internet broadcasters who only broadcast copyleft/CC licensed is also needed. I envision a site much in the same vein as Live365. Broadcasters/netcasters/bloggers could pool their resources/audiences to publicize and market such an endeavor.
Such an infrastructure will also need it's taste-makers. Join us existing taste-makers and spread the word. Burn compilation CDs for your friends. Get others hooked. Free music is enticing if the music is top notch. Just as we at blocSonic do, compile your favorite net audio tracks into compilations with art and liner notes. Launch a site to help promote your favorite net audio.
Lastly, as I mentioned in a previous blocSonic blog post, netlabels need to make their sites USER-FRIENDLY. Experimental navigation is all well-and-good, but that won't gain you new listeners. Why else would you run a netlabel but to provide net artists with a means to gain new listeners? Some netlabels I've been to are unbearable to navigate – hidden links, image rollovers, clever names for links to the release page. All that stuff is so 1997. I'm a web developer and I have no patience to try and decode their navigation systems, why should a casual listener who just wants to check out their music? There are a couple netlabels that I have not explored due to their "experimental" site structure/design. If you call yourself a "netlabel" than please make your music the star attraction. Make it as easy as possible to find it. When it comes down to it, people aren't visiting your site to see your clever use of flash, rollovers or whatever. They're visiting your site for the music, help them find it. Don't confuse what I'm saying... you can be very creative with the design of your website and still keep it usable and user-friendly. Usability needs to be the highest priority.
There's still a long way to go. Many more net audio listeners are needed in order to impact the music-industry in a significant way. But with an infrastructure for take-over in place, the net audio world can become an influential part of pop-culture world-wide.
Owner / Creator blocSonic.com