LABEL AS A WEAPON, LABEL AS A MACHINE

American label Stunned Records is a telling example of how thin the border line between ethics of DIY and serial production of music is. Originally an amateur project focused primarily on the production and distribution of home-made cassettes of limited edition, in two years the label has established itself as a distinctive point of reference for the post-noise subculture. The gained influence brings with it responsibility and necessity to think through the conceptual strategies of radical music on the pragmatic level of the production of physical media. The original roots of DIY were concerned with fundamental questions of the functioning of music industry and of the recording as a fetishistic object. Yet the serial production of albums with their perfect reproduction of the original does away with erroneousness, exclusivity - the necessary conditions of fetishistic jouissance. The asexual and sterile process excludes the intimate relationship between the label, recording, and listener for the sake of the movement of a machine. We could as well call this excluded essence of a recording after Benjamin's aura.

Already the process of recording of the audio track and its consequent mastering poses serious obstacles to the auratic being of a work of music. DIY labels and concert performances, on the other hand, are attempts to define aura in a new way or to save it – within limits. Stunned Records present us with a paradox of do-it-yourself of today's post-noise scene in its honesty and obviousness. Even though they have from the beginning adopted a DIY attitude towards publishing and keep the basic laws of its codex (the cassette formate, hand-made artwork, limited edition), in their good-hearted desire for perfection they, in fact, make possible the penetration of the capitalist mechanism into the heart of the radical scene. They face the paradox of the user-friendly attitude towards the “customer” with her market tastes and habits on the one hand, and attempts at creating new possibilities for production and distribution of audio recordings on the other. As soon as their production of copies of recordings becomes professionalized and perfected to meet the expectations of buyers, what gets lost is the physical imprint of manual work, the lack of perfection (folded corners of a booklet, scissors-cut paper, stains of used paint on the cover of the cassette).

A DIY label usually functions in the following way: the author, according to his own possibilities, prepares the material for publication and sends it in its digital format to the publisher. The publisher creates a design for the album cover or, in some cases, gets it directly from the author, and then proceeds to the mechanical work itself (manual reproduction of the original into a given number of copies, home-made production of a booklet and a brief text about the content of the recording). The problem comes first of all with the manual production of a cassette. In order for the final product to satisfy the customer and to adapt to the usual understanding of money exchange in which we expect a standardized and identical product for a certain amount of money, the whole process resembles more and more manufacture. Sophisticated cutting machines are used, the print is taken care of by professional printing services or a special machine purchased for that purpose. So far we have failed to be consistent enough to reach a radical position where error or difference as features of uniqueness would enable new economic perception of the work of art.

The label remains faithful to the obstinacy of DIY by ways of distribution. A very limited edition is one of the sources of fetishism of a music fan. However, even this position remains ambivalent. The limitedness of copies does not solve the problem of uniqueness of the original; the number only concentrates diffuseness of radiation. The demand or interest far surpasses the number of products available. The listener interested in playing the recording depends on blogs, music forums or P2P webs where it is possible to download it in a digital format, often along with its visual accompaniment. The label then unconsciously relies on the binary universe of the internet where its reputation is being built. This parallel space of the web, however, represses the fetish; its interests lie elsewhere. The paradox of this situation introduces an interesting state of schizophrenia oscillating between the usual understanding of the socio-economic processes in the music industry (art as commodity) and the new ideological force coming from the Internet. So far has the netlabel or bloglabel been perceived as something secondary because of commodity fetishism or the desire of the recipient to return to the era before the times of technical reproduction when aura still played its fundamental role. The neutral and artificial space of internet often serves as an information medium, thanks to which the market relationships are more easily realised. Netlabel as well as DIY label contain in themselves the embryonic potentiality for transformation of the principles that survive in the most radical subcultures, but, for the time being, both are afraid to be consistent enough or, in other words, they fear the death of the author, the ego. Home-made publishing remains at a hybrid stage; it wavers between the perfection of serial production and fetishistic exclusivity of DIY. Netlabel, on the other hand, becomes a failure once it refuses to sacrifice its own ego, the economic construct of authorship and, instead, functions according to the exchange value of money.
(translated by TS)

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