What's the blocSonic process for finding netlabel gems?

Yesterday Martin at DRM Alternatives asked a few good questions regarding blocSonic. A couple of them were answered in a comment, the remaining one I'd like to expound on today.

First, I'd like to clarify what I mean when I describe the included compilation tracks as the 'best'. Of course this is purely subjective and that there really can be no "BEST" of any art form. Though since it is so subjective, I can surely say that the ten included tracks ARE in fact THE BEST. They're the best in my humble opinion as someone who has listened to thousands of albums in my thirty-five years. This is not meant to be a defensive statement, but merely one that attempts to make clear my meaning. I call these tracks the best, because they do represent the best music that I've heard thus far from net audio culture. Best in the sense that they are the types of songs that are immediately catchy. Songs that have a broader appeal than the more experimental type of net audio. Remember, the goal of blocSonic is as an introduction to net audio and a way of cutting through the mountain of music available. The best way to grab new listeners, is to include music that will grab their attention quickly. I'll leave the discovery of the more abstract/experimental sounds to the listeners after they've become acquainted with net audio. This is not to say that catchier forms of music are BETTER or WORSE than more complex forms.

So how is it that I come up with the monthly compilation? I make my rounds to Archive.org, Phlow.de and Jamendo and try to randomly find albums that peak my interest. What grabs me is always different. Sometimes, it's an album cover, sometimes it's an album title... sometimes it's a genre, sometimes it's a description or sometimes it's simply one track sample.

Once I've found an album, I download it, organize it into my netlabel archive and add it to my iTunes catalog for listening. As I listen, I give each track a star rating. If a track receives my purely subjective five-star rating, then it qualifies to be in the running for an upcoming compilation. Following this, the track will need to hold my attention after multiple listens. If it still holds up against the other five-stars, it will be added to a temporary netBloc tracklist. This is the testing-ground for continuity. How do tracks sound played before and after one another? Is the transition too sudden? Not sudden enough? If a track simply doesn't work with any of the other tracks, it's removed.

Once I've pared down the list to ten tracks, I give the line-up a few listens to be sure that it continues to feel right. If so, I then compile a list of artists and/or netlabels to contact for permission and assets (e.g. bios and source audio). This is when further changes usually occur, either because an artist/label can't be reached for whatever reason or that the artist/label refuses to be included. So far, each compilation has had one change during this period of development, which isn't too bad. When this occurs, I find an appropriate replacement, either from the five-star tracks that didn't make the initial cut or (if none of those really work in the context of the compilation) search online for a replacement. Usually this search entails seeking out a track based purely on a certain sound or vibe that the originally intended track had.

Finally, when the tracklist is complete and all assets have been acquired, I compile the audio tracks into their final form using my audio editor of choice – Amadeus Pro. It's not free like Audacity, but what I like about it is the fact that it's GUI is a pure Mac Cocoa GUI and it's not over-priced like Bias Peak. Interacting with it is completely intuitive as a Mac app should be and it boasts quite an impressive feature list. It sure gives Peak a run for it's money. I highly recommend it to anyone needing to edit audio.

The one thing I'd really like to improve about the process is something I have no control of, that's Archive.org's lack of a random release spotlight. With their extensive catalog, it would surely make a useful utility for finding new net audio.

Thanks again to everyone who has downloaded and checked out the releases. All assets for netBloc volume 3 are in place and I'm in the process of preparing it for release next week and there are couple surprises that are sure to catch your attention!