Imagine, if you will, a craftsman hunched over a workbench, his concentration bent on producing a matchless gem fit for none but the cream of society. Further imagine, for the sake of an uninspired analogy, your nose pressed up against a jeweller's shop window as he places a Fabergé egg on a cushion of crushed velvet. If only you had access to the riches inside.
Let's face it, buster - you ain't gettin' no steenkin' jewellery. But do not fret. Succour is at hand in the form of one of the internet's great untapped music resources. If you visit blocSonic you'll get the following free musical Fabergés:
- Sixteen (you heard me, sixteen) zipped compilation albums, each painstakingly sourced from netlabels and Creative Commons websites around the world, available for free download in lossless FLAC format or mp3 (with a choice between 320kbps and 192 kbps). All tracks can be downloaded individually, which is good news for the many people without broadband.
- Highly professional and distinctive packaging artwork in tif, eps and pdf formats for your CD and jewel case, should you need something more tactile than an mp3 file.
- A substantial PDF file giving full track information and biographies, etc. of the artists. From netBloc 16 onwards there'll be a brief Q & A session with each artist.
As with all compilations, the tracks will elicit the following reactions: yuck/meh/dat is da shit, boyeee. With 16 albums to choose from, CTW's modus operandi was to download the 192 kbps mp3s, compile an enormous playlist in Microsatan's Windows Media Player and whittle the list down to tracks that rang my bell. Those tracks left standing in the rubble are the ones I will download at the better-sounding bit-rate of 320 kbps. I can tell you're impressed.
Of course, the compilations serve as a great starting point when searching for free netmusic. We all know how difficult it is to find music that suits our tastes perfectly, so being able to sift through blocSonic's compilations makes things easier and is also a lot of fun. Sites like blocSonic, Free Albums Galore, Phlow and Netlabelism are vital signposts on the open road to free music, and will help artists who don't have the backing of a record label to contemplate/sustain a music career, or who simply enjoy the buzz of releasing their music to a global audience.
BlocSonic should go from strength to strength. But here's the rub: given the high production values and the superb value for money (the music is free, donations to the artists are optional but welcome), the download figures are criminally low. It seems to me that the netlabel/Creative Commons scene is music's best-kept secret. Please, do me a favour - email your friends and colleagues with a link to blocSonic. They'll think you're terribly trendy, you'll walk a little taller, and the netlabel scene will continue to gather momentum. And, dammit, CTW's sidebar of "General Netlabel Sites" is far more exclusive than any hawker of trinkets to high society, so if blocSonic's been allowed to perch there for the last few months then you can rest assured it's worth visiting.
*gets off high horse*
The illustration at the top of this article is the cover for the latest compilation, Sweet Sixteen. Not only does it look lovely and give you an idea of the high standard of presentation common to the entire blocSonic website, it stops me having to use the blocSonic logo as the main illustration. I mean, as lovely as it is, it's this big:
..and the CTW computer boffins can do nothing with it. Stop laughing.
netBloc Volume Sixteen (Sweet Sixteen) (link to zipped album and individual files)