Soulseek Records (or slskrex) is a community-oriented netlabel founded in 2002 by users of the peer-to-peer file sharing network Soulseek. Like many netlabels, Soulseek Records' operation is not-for-profit and advocates the ideals of the Creative Commons by allowing listeners to freely distribute releases for non-commercial purposes. All of Soulseek Records' releases are compilations collaborated on by members within the community. In 2003, Soulseek Records created a sub-label, SUAL, for the purposes of releasing single-artist albums.
Upon its creation, Soulseek drew a large userbase of independent electronic musicians, with a large number of them coming from the IDM Mailing List. In 2001, a handful of users began conversing about the idea of starting a non-profit record label as an offshoot of Soulseek. A user named Seedy brought up the idea of creating a compilation, and together the many Soulseek musicians were able to raise enough user-donated funds to print and sell their first CD - "The Soulseek Compilation". This was a basic compilation that consisted of songs that were chosen into selection by the user base in a client-wide vote. Along with the music was the artwork, created by Numbr - also a Soulseek user.
After the success of the first release came the second, known as "The One Minute Massacre - Volume 1". This was a concept album, written in a game of telephone sort of way. One person would create 1–2 minutes of music and pass it to the next person, who picked up where the first left off, and so on. The result was a continuous flow of music involving 40 different musicians.
Since then, the label has released numerous net-only albums.
Most of the decisions regarding the actions of the label are determined by the users through voting. Whether or not a project is released as an 'official' Soulseek Records release is determined by a vote - otherwise it remains in the pool. There is a monthly contest called The SLSK in which users submit any song they've recently completed in order to showcase new things they're into. The submissions are then voted on by the entire user base, choosing a top 3.
A popular project of Soulseek Records is the Massacre, which is sort of like a musical game of telephone. An artist creates a bit of music limited to a specific time and passes it to another artist who picks up where the previous song ended. After the release of The One Minute Massacre Volume 1, the label created 3 more Volumes, all in the same fashion. It was a popular concept, especially being that it was a free-for-all project in which many musicians could participate. Spinoffs of the original idea include the 24 Hour Massacre (same concept, except the entire album is created in a timespan of 24 hours, resulting in an intense time-based challenge) and the One Second Massacre (same concept, except each artist creates one second and passes it on. As of January 2006, this project has reached nearly 10 minutes of material.) Several other releases not associated with Soulseek Records have picked up on similar ideas.
In addition to the regular Soulseek Records releases, the label has a sub-section known as Shut Up And Listen (or SUAL), created specifically to showcase solo artist releases. Releases which are the work of one artist have an 'a' at the end of the catalog number, while 'c' denotes a community project, such as "Soulseek Allstars Volume 1" from 2004. These releases distinguish themselves from the regular releases in that they are not necessarily voted on and usually allow each artist more duration. Featured artists ('a') in order of appearance: New Delhi FM, St. Thomas, Daigoro, Bubzigohn, Rick Strom, Cube (3), Kernel32, Hucky O'Bare, halluciphile, Humanite, Ruinae, Sine Weaver, Nik Jade, EatMe, Laskurg, Oculairus, and Megaheadphoneboy.
The Web site
The label's Web site serves as an interactive breeding ground for group-related musical projects. Users can submit ideas for projects, gain participants, submit their tracks, and even chat about the specific projects in an embedded shoutbox. The site also serves as the portal for downloading the many net releases that have come from the label.
Some of the project ideas include creating songs that are of a certain BPM, creating songs that relate to a certain idea or feeling, remixing remixes of remixes, and different spinoffs of The One Minute Massacre.
The music created by Soulseek Records musicians is centered around unhindered individual expression. Therefore each style is unique and cannot be fit into one or two established genres. Mostly forms of electronic music, such as IDM, glitch, Ambient, Noise, and Breakcore SoulSeek publishes music which is atypical. While a majority of the userbase focuses on the creation of new and unheard sounds, sequenced through trackers, this collective includes other more fundamental or archaic forms of music. Some of the most active artists that release with Soulseek Records are: Kernel32, Bogsnarth, New Delhi FM, KiloWatts, Disasemble, DoF, kdp, UndaCova, One Lonely Guy, Auan, mirdog, Psy-sci, EvilSound, Plagasul, Rich 1004, Cube, Rochie, Ears Akimbo (Laze), ACP, TWISTOR, Orphax, ToyzRme, Seedy, Sine Weaver and Temp Sound Solutions.
Soulseek Records sprung from a filesharing application around 2001, a time when the RIAA first began cracking down on mp3 trading and proclaiming it as being destructive to the music industry. Soulseek Records helped show that filesharing programs could be used for a much more noble cause than simply downloading copyrighted mp3s. Soulseek has remained a program that is colored with a flourishing, active musician base, and this seems to set it apart from other conventional filesharing communities. As a result, many of the artists who release with Soulseek Records do so in order to promote free exchange of music, and most even share their commercially released albums as a 'tip of the hat' to the philosophy that music should remain free to anyone who seeks it out.
An annual digital arts festival called Lab30 (30 being the street number of the Abraxas Theater) is held in Augsburg, Germany by longtime Soulseek user Manfred Genther and other Augsburg locals. This festival focuses on showcasing digital musicians, digital artists, and netlabels from all over the world. Many Soulseek artists have performed at the festival, and a large number of them have performed live for the very first time there. Lab30 has steadily grown in size since the first event, and continues to be a meeting place for the musicians and users of Soulseek. Attendees usually come from all over Europe and the United States. Lab30 is a well known event in Augsburg, and widely supported and cherished by the Augsburg music and art scene.
A few years after the conception of Soulseek Records came the endeavor to create a commercial label, run by Rosalind Arbel and a few other Soulseek users, known as SLSK Records. SLSK Records, which stands apart from the original Soulseek Records, is intended to function just like a standard record label, with widespread physical releases, artists, and possible profit. SLSK Records's first release features the longtime Soulseek artist Saskia, and has already been accompanied with a remix competition for the first single (The One EP) from the upcoming album (Deep CD). The remix contest was announced to every user of the p2p client, and resulted in over 900 submitted remixes. SLSK Records is the commercial label, while Soulseek Records remains a free community-run nonprofit label.