Updated: May 3, 2021
So, this piece is not really about getting music for free. It’s more about finding the strange and interesting releases that are out there amongst everything else.
The pay what you want feature on Bandcamp is often used by labels that run very limited tape or vinyl releases. The kind of releases that people who are down that rabbit hole buy up immediately and, I’m guessing, that the good label folk figure that if they have covered their initial outlay and reached budget for said releases that anything on top is pure bonus. Getting the music out there to more people, who might not own a tape deck, is a great way for promoting future releases and encouraging the second hand tape deck market….maybe!
Of course, not all the labels who offer this service are tape deck owning weirdos. Some of the collectives are just plain strange and can't seem to put a value on their own output, leaving us in an even stranger position, with a moral dilemma to boot.
How can you possibly put value on a 33 minute piece of drone glitch plunder-phonics based on a family outing in the mid 1980s to Preston? Well, I have my own methods of working this out, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. But remember, as simple as a piece of music may seem, somebody has spent a hell of a lot of time making it and they are wearing their heart on their sleeve releasing it for critique. There is certainly a value to that. Generally, when I stumble on one of these labels, I’ll dig about within its treasures for a while and if there’s more than one release that I simply can't live without I’ll make a donation. I’d like to suggest that you do the same and help the continuation of this fabulous ideal for future listeners to discover more left off centre musical offerings that are out there in the ethers. So without further ado, let’s jump in with both feet and see what I’ve found.
Some of my findings are for playing out at my various sunset and chilled residencies on the island of Ibiza where I reside. Some have been chosen for inclusion in an ongoing project to create the perfect soundtrack for an imaginary guest house - imaginatively titled Radio Guesthouse - that I have been working on this past locked down year with a friend who lives on another island. This island being in Thailand, our sessions are done as virtual B2B dj sets via the wonderful dropbox. The results can be checked out at the end of this piece
- and some of the choices I’ve decided to share with you were made simply because I was not able to carry on living my life knowing that the music was out there and that I might not be able to listen to them again should I be away from the internet when the muse took me.
DEATH IS NOT.
Record label & NTS Radio show ~ gospel, blues, folk, sound systems, pirate radio + various wormholes.
I was originally drawn to this label when looking for indents for the Guesthouse Radio project as they have a couple of fantastic and original pirate radio advertising compilations on there, but on further investigation there is a real goldmine of lesser discovered world music including some wonderful gospel (a genre I know very little about) that’ll make the hairs on your neck stand to attention, a wicked drone album by a band/person with a name guaranteed to keep them in the underground forever. And some good time Cajun music that no collection is complete without, in my humble opinion. All this and much much more are amongst the many other fine offerings all at the very helpful ‘name your price’ offer on this label. Not too much information in regards to the band/person that’s produced my chosen track but I do know that the label has re-released the album from another source so maybe track them down that way if you require further scaly dreamscapes that bring to mind lost hours in car parks waiting for the drugs to wear off a bit before driving home. As these guys are basically recycling old music and putting down bits with no publishing costs associated, it’s a labour of love. Give them something for that I guess. Fiver maybe?
New York. New York
Not too sure about my headspace when I came across this, as I must have been hash tagging #DEATH for some reason now unbeknown to myself. But my temporary lapse into melancholy came up trumps as I un-earthed a compilation that has not left my playlist since first coming across it a while back now. Gothic Country, Cow-Punk and Southern Slide scores abound. Short electronic musings interplay and act as momentary diversions between the collected tracks of Red Neck Woke The track that I’ve chosen from the O’Death comp. is by a band that after my initial discovery I went on to purchase several amazing albums by. Once again showing the true might of the name your price button. Big Blood showcase , for want of a better term, their gothic country stylings here, although this is not wholly representative of their entire cannon. They visit some different and interesting places across the many releases of their extensive back catalog. Not a great deal of information out there regarding this collective. Is it a label, is it a band? - fuck knows. Some of the releases have a price attached and some don't. But there’s no obvious reason for this and no further information available about the acts representing. It’s all great though and I can not think of anybody else out there doing anything remotely like this. All of the acts featured on this label are quite obviously hard drinking/drugging sorts and will need the funds to sustain this lifestyle. Give 'em what you’d give Adam And The Ants back in the day... 'bout 8 quid if memory serves. My advice is to grab the aforementioned compilation - - and empty a bottle of cheap wine whilst picking a fight with the folk next door complaining about the frightful and wonderful sounds coming out your kitchen.
Tokyo based independent musician. Making chill out/minimal /ambient sounds.
Playing guitar, steel guitar, sampler and electronic instruments.
I found this guy way back when he must have thought his music was worthless. That or he had the ingenious idea that if he got people hooked on his first (excellent) release they’d be hooked and have to purchase future additions to his cannon. Worked with me anyway, and due to the fact that the once highly valuable Japanese Yen is now all but worthless against the mighty Euro his releases are not going to break your piggy bank. He describes what he does thus - 東京在住のインディー音楽家。ギター、ハワイアンスチールギターなどを用いて、チルアウト/ミニマル/アンビエントな作風の音楽を作る。2015年11月に自主制作したデビューアルバム『Lost in Pacific』は、英国ウェブメディア『FACT』にてライターが選ぶ2016年ベスト盤に選出。 Which for the uneducated out there amongst us basically means “I make music aimed at making you feel seasick and worrisome whilst you remember past happiness and long for it’s return” maybe….that’s how it makes me feel anyway. Sort of. I love his music and feature it often. Especially when I want to make people feel seasick and nostalgic for something they can't remember having. And due to the short length of the tracks on the EP I like to edit the whole in a different manner each time I play it out for extra wobble. Give it a go. Give him some Euros. They go a long way in Japan.
A recording project and vinyl record label focused on culture in the West African Sahel.
Sahel Sounds are one of the great forward thinking labels who truly have their collective fingers on the pulse of marketing their product. By giving things away.
They release at least one compilation a year featuring big hitters from the label to tempt you down their Sub Saharan rabbit hole and very occasionally they will (if you have purchased things from them previously) inform you that for a very limited time period everything on their profile page will be available under the wonderful name your price option. It’s certainly worked well for them in regards to my own purchasing habits and this is by far and away the label I’ve spent more money with on Bandcamp. The track I’ve chosen is from their first ‘free’ compilation is probably the one that I get asked most about when playing to an audience. Although I could talk about any one of the featured tracks on this sampler and did in fact go on to buy several albums from the featured artists, let’s focus. Tofi by Abubakar & Fati Niger opens with the very African kalimba (thumb piano) but that’s where all similarities to other typical African sounding music finish and we are whisked away further east to the shores of Asia as the track settles into a decidedly Bollywood beat. Yes, Africans making Bollywood….or at least music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Bollywood epic. There is a fantastic story behind the reason for this but you should find this out for yourselves whilst listening to the incredible and fun filled Tofi.
Make it mean something.
Hailing from Manchester and for me on a personal level making waves around the time the BLM movement picked up speed within a greater consciousness mid 2020.
It’s an album that, whilst sounding truly beautiful, tells an upsetting and unsettling story oft told. A story worth listening to repeatably until the message sinks in a little deeper.
We share this world and our immediate surroundings with others and their stories need to be heard. Music has always been a great spreader of ’the message’ starting with the blues, making its way through the inner cities via soul, funk and eventually arriving at a place that it simply could not be ignored with the advent of hip-hop and other forms of street poetry around the mid 1970s. Taking their lead from such protest pieces Space Afrika strip things back to the bare bones on this release with found sounds from the city they inhabit, placed side by side with snippets of dialog from across the Atlantic, live and direct as the backlash to police infamy was unfolding before our very eyes. The whole album is placed in the name your price bracket, although if you go to the featured tune below you will be asked to pay for the individual track - the album works as a whole listening piece rather than being a collection of tracks - I suggest that you go grab the whole album and give them a tenner. It’s an incredible piece of work and the money goes to a very worthy cause. Do your bit, you’ll feel better about yourself by buying some music… imagine that!
Icy as fuck. Non_binary. Rapper, producer & performer.
More great music has come out of Manchester, England than any other city in the world. Fact.
Maybe it’s due to the god awful weather there. This being a reason people stay indoors for their entertainment. Maybe it’s due to the cross pollination of young peoples populating the huge university campuses, that in turn leads to a vivid and active nightlife and musical landscape unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Or maybe it’s the water rushing liberally down from the Pennines and into the unsuspecting gullets of the populace that's helped generate the seaming glut of incredible music over the years. Whatever it is, it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. An incredibly open minded scene is happening (or was before the virus put the kibosh on any available fun) in the inner city and pockets of Salford just around the corner. A scene that’s open to experimentation and gender fluidity; a scene that's fresh and run by the youth of the city rather than the moaning silverback sat at the back of the (any) pub trying to rekindle an old high. The track that I’ve chosen to represent what’s happening in Manchester is admittedly getting a little long in the tooth now and things will no doubt have changed considerably, or at least have morphed into something new but hey, I’m a 51 year old bloke living on Ibiza so give me a break. The track is basically made of elements - that on paper - I dislike a lot but by being both sympathetic to the original and keeping it super simple in what he has done. He has managed to make something so different to the original that it’s almost difficult to make out what it may well once have been. Once again I’ve chosen one track from an album that I can, and often do, listen to over and over again all the way though. An incredible and interesting album well worth as much as you feel like giving. And once again, all the money goes to good causes supporting love in the community we all share.
So for reasons of keeping things in a similar vein to the other blog posts, here’s how I decided to spend my €50 budget. Not based on an actual value that I’ve somehow decide to bestow on the artists - or the art itself - which, of course, is nigh on impossible to do when you're given the option to name your price. Like being asked by somebody you’ve met in a developing nation that’s done you a good turn or been extra helpful to “give me what you like sir” when you ask them how much you should pay for their services to you. You're suddenly faced with a moral minefield, you most probably have more money than you’d prefer to part with, it’s human nature, and you really have no notion about the lives these people live and how your generosity or tightness might affect them. But, if you give generously, you might just get to see them develop over the years. And this is worth far more than the price of admission. 92 Inside An Escort - €5 O’Death compilation - €10
Balearic Hawaii EP - €5 Sahel Sounds Sampler volume 1 - €10 Space Afrika album hybtwibt? - €10
Drown To Float - €10
Mark Broadbent lives in Ibiza and can be found DJing at Pikes on Thursdays & Sundays.
He can also be found playing guest slots and weekly residencies at other island venues, catering for clients with discerning taste in musical selections.
His colourful CV includes working with Cream, and programming We Love Space for more than a decade.
His wonderful Radio Guesthouse project can be found on Soundcloud.