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Audio Gourmet: Label Profile

img  Tobias Fischer

About founding Audio Gourmet
I guess it was always something I knew in the back of my mind that I'd like to do. I wasn't committed to making that leap at first, and so I used the Audio Gourmet blog to write about my own music and also focus on the work of others. This gradually developed into a sort of reviews section for a time before eventually turning everything into the Audio Gourmet netlabel as we know it. I think the main reason I didn't start it sooner, was because I didn't really have the contact with enough artists for it to be viable to start up a label. But after a couple of years running the blog, I was fortunate enough to make friends with a lot of artists and people with the know-how that would help me get up and running.

About the cult of the English tea break

There does seem to be something quintessentially British about having a nice pot of tea, even though it doesn't actually originate from the isles. Looking at the bigger picture, I think that everybody likes to take a break when they can, whether it be with a cup of tea, coffee or whatever. So I felt that with this in mind, the label's concept is something that people across the globe can relate to one way or another. I think the importance of the fifteen minute time frame is that it is roughly how long you have to consume a hot drink before it turns cold ...

About turning the tea break into a concept for a label
It was literally born out of my tea-breaks at work! I make sure I take my allocated 15 minute tea-breaks each day and use this time to have a cup of coffee and listen to some music. What I found when thinking about the music I listened to in this time, is that I was often shuffling through tracks and would end up finishing the break feeling frustrated, wanting to listen to more music once the stop-watch reached zero. This was when the idea struck me for the Audio Gourmet netlabel – I wanted to curate a label where people were able to listen to the latest release in this time-frame. Short, refreshing bursts of sound-art to accompany times when only a brief listen was possible.

About the response of artists to the 15 minute rule

I've never had an artist come to me and say they found it challenging. Everyone seems to embrace the idea and use it to perhaps try something different or to scale down their production style a little, serving as a brief introduction to their work. One of my initial aims for the netlabel was that its brief time frame was an attractive offer for some of the bigger artists in the scene to use the label as a means to send out a sort of demo EP and win over some new fans.

About the process of releasing something on Audio Gourmet

It'll usually be an exchange of a few emails discussing the suitability of a demo. Often, an artist will just get in touch with a demo mp3 and I'll be able to decide as to whether it is the right style of music to fit with the label aesthetic from there. Sometimes, an artist will come in with the complete package from the master WAV tracks to the artwork and release notes. I usually get two to three submissions a week, which suits me fine as one of my intentions for the label is to keep publishing new work at a steady rate. Unfortunately I do have to turn some down if they're not suitable. This is never a nice thing to have to do, when people have made the effort to put something together but in this instance, I like to try and make constructive suggestions in regards to more suitable labels.

About evaluating demos
It was the intention originally to actually listen to demos during a tea break, and sometimes I still listen to new EPs over a cup of coffee at work. But largely, I'll listen when I can find the time to download it. Usually this is on the laptop at home, but now I have a smartphone, I can have a first listen to mp3 demos on the move! From listener feedback, I have had lots of comments telling stories of the listening environment. And indeed, it's often over a cup of tea which is nice to hear!

About sound quality standards
In terms of the mastering, if something's not quite there, I am lucky to have Byron of the Felt Collective on board to help with this. In terms of the format quality, an eventual submission must always be in WAV form. It can be a pain uploading/downloading huge WAV files at times, but when you start re-converting and messing around with mp3s, they can lose quality. But at demo  stage, an mp3 is fine.

About the importance of making the music on Audio Gourmet available for mixes

When I first got into ambient music, it was through mix blogs like The Hydrogen Cafe and the Lowlight Mixes. I'd go for long walks listening to their latest mixes and then when I got home, I'd check the tracklist and search for more work by the artists included. This is an example of how effective a mix can be for promotional purposes. Each time a track is included in a mix, it serves as a little promotion for the artist and label alike. So I wanted this for Audio Gourmet's artists ... From personal mixing experience, longform tracks often get chopped up or are overlooked altogether. So I felt that if I stipulate that an EP must comprise of at least two tracks, this would be avoided and make the catalog very accessible from a mixer's point of view.

About the label's general philosophy and aesthetics
For Audio Gourmet and the artists I work with, I want to build a sense of community encouraging ambient and experimental music as a genre. So the more artists that come into the fold, the more this positive movement expands. Which is why, for me, there isn't an EP that sums up the label perfectly, since I feel that it is the entire catalog as a whole that portrays the philosophy of the label.

About releasing the first EP on Audio Gourmet
It was very different! We weren't using Bandcamp for starters! It all started on a simple blog with links to an archive page. The first EP was actually something by my own artist pseudonym, Spheruleus. It was around spring time when the label started up, so I decided to put together a light and breezy EP to get things up and running.

About working on visuals with the artists on the Audio Gourmet roster

When I started the netlabel, I pretty much required all of the releases to be self-mastered and ready-provided with the cover image. Over time, I've been lucky to make friends with quite a few photographers, which means that if an artist is stuck for a cover image, we can all work together to get something suitable. Same goes for mastering - as I mentioned earlier, we've got Byron Felt on board who is able to bring recordings to life a little more and level off any volume issues. So the more contacts I make, the more I am able to draw upon their skills to put back into the music and overall label output.

About offering full-album releases for sale

This is something that is going to become more and more crucial to keeping things running the way they are now. As many are aware, Bandcamp has started charging its account users to distribute their music for free. Each Bandcamp account has an allowance of 'free download credits' per month and then once these get used up, further credits have to be purchased. I can understand why they'd want to do this, since a lot of people like myself are literally giving quality music away for free, but I don't want to stop doing this as the EPs will always be non-profit. So what I've decided to do, to keep with the aesthetics and ease of use Bandcamp offers, is put together full albums and compilation albums available for purchase. The proceeds from these will then go towards buying free-download credits. I've just finished organising the first big compilation on Audio Gourmet, which features some top-notch artists such as Machinefabriek, Pillowdiver, The Green Kingdom and Fabio Orsi amongst others … This will be available in January.

About exchanging ideas with Jonathan Lees of Hibernate Recordings
As mentioned earlier, I've an album coming out on Hibernate next year. The backbone of this album was put together about a year ago and ever since, I have been in regular contact with Jonathan who is running the label. I've been fortunate in meeting Jonathan and he's lent his skills for website building/management and also his photography. In return, I'll sometimes cast an ear over his Hibernate releases and give my opinion and occasionally I'll help organise the press releases too. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Audio Gourmet used to operate as a blog and archive label - it is thanks to Jonathan that we have a proper website, with the integrated Bandcamp links.

About highlights from Audio Gourmet's first year

The highlights are numerous; it has been fantastic! I've thoroughly enjoyed releasing each and every EP and it's been great hearing all the positive feedback from the people that have been downloading them. It has also been fantastic to get to know so many talented artists and really build a network whereby we support one another's work. Another big highlight for me, was being able to present a small talk introducing Audio Gourmet at an event called Sound:Site in Reading, UK. Basically, summing up what the label is about and how I use the Internet and technology for the day to day running of the label.

Homepage: Audio Gourmet Netlabel

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