Proot Records is a netlabel that has been releasing a wide variety of electronic and avant-garde music for free through their website since 2007. M3 contacted label manager Mathias to talk about their free music policy, the benefits of digital media and how many people still opt to pay for a release when given the option to download freely…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Mathias – Hi! I’m Mathias and I mainly spend my time in composing music and practicing instruments (clarinet, piano, violin, …), I also manage the label Proot records, and my own musical project Thiaz Itch, the rest of the time I try to find a little money on little jobs.
Ah and I’m not really good at talking about myself or Proot.
What inspired you to start Proot Records? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I founded Proot records thinking of a label with lightness, fun and home-made in an artisanal way.
About my musical backgrounds, to make it short I started composing electronic hardcore music around 2000 on tracker, and my influences and music became more and more happy and childish, I released my first EP on Bedroom Research in 2005, and now I work more and more on acoustic and instrumental compositions.
What was the reasoning behind making many of the label’s releases available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
At first I felt it just logical to give “non-physical” music for free, and also wanted to share it with the most people.
And since almost everyone has access to internet and sharing data is so easy, I congratulate Bandcamp that gave the alternative to say : “Ok, listen to the music for free as you please, but if you really like it, download it with a small contribution please”, because it takes some time and money to manage the label (website, communication).
What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
The benefits or the free sharing are clear that it helped a lot of Proot artists to be discovered and showed to a bigger mass of people. For the disadvantages, the only thing I could say is that I’d like to pay some artists sometimes for the graphical image of the label.
On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
I made the experience with my album “Misty” for example : I put the album for free the first two months, I think I was around 2000 downloads, then I decided to put it at 1€ minimum, then only 18 people downloaded it the following month… I think that answers the question.
But about stats, it’s always hard to say how many people really enjoyed the album, on the 2000 first downloads, maybe 20 people just liked it … very hard to say … but I can suppose that if someone pays 1€ to download it, there’s more chances he/she already likes it …
Why did you decide to focus mainly on digital releases?
Because it’s free!!
And my flat isn’t big, so I can’t stock a lot of physical releases in here.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl!!! Even if I admit it’s not the most transportable medium, so I guess I listen more often to MP3, but that also makes the Vinyl rarest and so more precious. Apart its so warm and special sound quality, it’s the biggest medium so it renders the best the graphical artwork and allows more creativity.
I also love Tapes with their “in-the-pocket” format, maybe for a future release…
However I think nowadays a link to download the digital album has to be joined to these mediums.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Yep, specially at the age of the random button, listeners (and artists!!!) should keep in mind an album has been worked as a whole piece of art!
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming record label today?
Give priority to quality and moreover originality!!
Finally, what does the future have in store for Proot Records?
Maybe the outcome of a Tape!? Anyway no more Vinyl until I make more room or have a bigger place.
And maybe the research of more acoustic or instrumental musicians/bands, which doesn’t mean no more electronic music.
And maybe some day some merchandising.
But always originality and happiness!!!