Starting up a new website is no easy task, even for a veteran like Patrik Lindström, co-founder of prominent netzine Brutal Resonance, but with Electroracle.com, he is making strides to create and instill a greater sense of community for the electro/industrial music scene.
An InterView with Patrik Lindström of Electroracle.com
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
A project several years in the making, Electroracle.com is a new website that might just be what the electro/industrial music scene needs – presenting a definitive user based platform that bridges the gaps between artist and audience, enabling fans around the world to interact and support the music. But there is so much more to this website that it’s best to simply allow founder/co-developer Patrik Lindström explain to ReGen and its readers just what Electroracle.com is and what it can offer you and other fans of electro, industrial, synthpop, and all points in between.
First of all, give us some background on Electroracle – what gave you the idea, and how did you go about making it a reality?
Lindström: First of all, I think it might be relevant to start with saying that I’m not an actual developer. In my professional work, I’m a software test manager since many years back and just in the recent years, I learned some minor to medium skills in development, self-taught. Since I learned to write my first lines of very basic functions, I’ve grown quite addicted to create things. Not from a business or money perspective – that’s irrelevant – but from ideas I have. Almost all of my projects had something to do with the ‘scene’ more or less. Neurozine.com is one site (netzine) and now closed. Promonetics was one site (promotional community platform). Promonetics started with the problem that many of the labels back then did not have a platform for digital promos and was not keen on sending promotional CDs up north (Sweden), so I created a platform for media and labels/promoters where they could find each other. It was somewhat popular, but I chose to disband it when Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Haulix started to surface. They were all much better from a technical standpoint, but, and this is actually important for your original question, they did not help in connecting promoters with media, media with artist and so on.
Back to Electroracle then. Well, the idea started as something completely different. I wanted to create a plugin for sites that displayed events such as festivals, radio, new releases, etc. The webmaster of that site could then change a bunch of layout details and then filter the plugin on location and genres. There was an admin tool where labels, radio, and concert organizers could login and add things to show up in the plugin. A label could actually use it as a plugin on the site to have an upcoming releases list; it was quite nice, versatile. I had it about 95% done when I realized I was looking at it from too small a perspective. What I really wanted to was to create the definitive portal for the genres I love, where you could find everything from a micro level, as a track name, to the bigger picture with news and discographies; a portal where you could go when you wanted to know the discography of an artist, want to find new artists in the genre you prefer, or simply get some suggestions on what to listen to on Spotify or watch on YouTube.
You’ve mentioned that Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Haulix were better from a technical standpoint as a platform for media and promotion. In what ways do you feel these sites have established a groundwork for new methods and models of distribution and promotion, and how do you feel labels and artists have best utilized them? In what ways do you feel they’ve not been used to their best potential?
Lindström: What I did right with Promonetics was the idea to bring media and labels/promoters together. They could become ‘partners’ (sort of friends) and the media or DJ got direct access to the promoter’s online promopool. That meant that new connections and friendships were made and that is something that is missing when you are using Bandcamp, for example. What those sites do right though is that they are big companies, they have massive servers (I hosted all promos on just a small server), and they have whole development teams that are not just doing it as a hobby. Sending yum-codes on Bandcamp is very easy for both the promoter and the media/DJs; I love it. Private SoundCloud links work fine too and Haulix is solid. The problem is that you need to know where to send your promotional material, and that’s where I hope Electroracle will be a great tool in the future – find media and DJs within your genre, find their links such as websites and Facebook, and get in touch!
Considering that you are also the founder/developer of Brutal Resonance, what do you feel you are able to accomplish with Electroracle that you’d not been able to with Brutal Resonance?
Lindström: Ever since the first time I took my first stumbling steps on the internet way back in the beginning of the ’90s, I’ve been impressed by the power of a world spanning community. It takes many shapes and forms, everything from Wikipedia to Imgur. It might be a bit naïve, but I believe that people generally want to contribute and be a part of something.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Brutal Resonance and that kind of one way interaction, writer to reader, will always have its place and listing of media and the big part media reviews takes on the site, I think that’s quite clear. However, what I missed about Brutal Resonance is the community aspect of it. I love user contributed sites and why have two people do all the work when you can have thousands of people wanting to contribute and create something together?
It’s a platform where artists can promote themselves, where a fan of a band can help them out adding things to their discography or adding reviews they had written for them, where labels can find media that suits them to send promos to media that actually fit their genres perfectly, where the fans and the users are able to create their own reviews and setting their own ratings, moving the power from a few editors and administrators to the collective. I also guess it’s quite the reaction against media taking money for featuring artists in their magazines, but let’s not open that can of worms.
Regarding your referring to media reviews as a one-way interaction of writer-to-reader… do you really feel that’s the case? After all, given that this is still somewhat of a niche ‘scene,’ and especially because thanks to the internet, everyone has a platform or an outlet of some sort – be it through comments on media sites, or social media, etc. – to express their own views and opinions on a wider scale as well as directly from one person to another.
Lindström: I see your point; however, in my opinion, the comment sections often are quite empty or they contain one liners like ‘I love this album’ or ‘I hate this album, this artist sucks’. What I’m missing is the user based reviews and an outlet for that. Writing something with some thought behind it in a comment section is rarely happening. I want to bring some of the quality of the user reviews from IMDB into the scene. On Electroracle, you are able to write a review yourself, expressing your opinion in a well written manner, with some thought behind it, and it can get the same attention on the artist, label, or release profile as the media reviews. It’s still a one way communication, but at least, there’s a platform for everyone.
Do you feel there is a case for professional critique to survive as a worthwhile occupation or endeavor?
Lindström: I would love to answer this question with, ‘Yes, I see a future where media within the scene is able to have it as an occupation, that there will be professional writers and artists and labels are able to survive on the income they make.’ Nothing would make me happier. However, I can’t. We are a mass of people doing something from passion, love, and wanting to create something. It’s important though that we do not neglect what passion can do. Doing something with passion is a reward in itself, and from passion, great things can grow. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least you tried to do something – for yourself, for others, or a combination of them both.
What have you found to be the major challenges in the formation of the website, and what have you found to be the most effective ways to overcome them?
Lindström: That’s a great question. There are two big challenges and they are quite separated from each other. One side being the technical side – many of our most active users are used to adding things on Discogs and IMDB and similar sites where I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from, and the issue is to create something that is similar and easy to use for them when they understand the terminology. At the same time, I want to create something even better and in a way, I think it’s the best and easiest way to understand the process. My friend Andrew ‘DNS’ Dienes has been a great help here as a think tank partner. On the other hand, the other big issue is how to get in loads and loads of data, and that is something I’m still trying to find a good way to solve. We have some great people that put a lot of time into adding material and are great contributors, but we need a bigger mass of people who want to be a part of something user driven and a collective, and to be honest, doing this interview is one of the steps in the right way – spreading the word; everything from adding data to just checking out the site and rating albums they love and albums they love less. This would help a whole great deal of getting the charts up and running. However, we are doing quite well so far; we have at this moment about 5000 artists, just short of 1000 labels, 150 media, and about 6000 releases that have a total of over 60,000 tracks with a total playtime of almost 5000 hours. It’s a start! It’s all about getting over that bump. You have a hard uphill run, but when you get over the hill and you get good hits on Google, people spread the word about the site and it becomes a well known part of the scene, then you are golden. And this is something that takes years.
As Electroracle is a database devoted to the electro/industrial/synthpop scene, what do you feel is it about this kind of music that attracts the audience that it does?
Lindström: The genres I love are the perfect setting for it! We are a whole scene of ‘do it yourself’ kind of people. No one expects things to be handed to you without any effort. It’s a collective type of site for a collective type of scene. A lot of artists are great inspiration here, as well as all the blogs and netzines and a bunch of labels. My friend Torny Gottberg at Progress Productions is inspiring as well; running the label for over 10 years and has not made a dime out of it. A lot of people I know and don’t know are putting in their hearts and time for the scene by releasing music, creating music, writing about music. Then I can put in a couple of thousands of hours of doing something as well. I guess you can say that Electroracle is my way of displaying the love I feel about the music and the people that are a part of it.
Given the degrees to which the styles and techniques of the music in this scene – industrial, synthpop, etc. – are also used in other forms of music, from mainstream rock, alternative rock, modern classical and soundtrack/score composition, coupled with the scene being such a hodgepodge of different styles anyway, what are your thoughts on the validity of genres? Obviously, they act as placeholders for those perhaps unfamiliar or in need of a blanket term, but in terms of their actual meaning or intent… what say ye?
Lindström: Today, many artists that would have been labeled as synthpop (for example) 10 years ago, do not see themselves as that; they do electronic pop music, and that’s great. Take the huge Swedish pop artist Robyn, for example; her album Body Talk from 2010 is a great synthpop album. The problem might be that ‘scene’ will grow smaller and smaller, because of it moving from being something alternative and a lifestyle to simply being something regular. It would simply be harder to bring together the masses, get clubs up and running, and muster some force behind things. Labeling your taste in music has always been there – punk, rocker, raver – and I think there’s something there, even though it’s really quite, unimportant. Me, I’m a ‘synthare’ (Swedish word for someone who listens to synth music) and I probably always will be.
What are your thoughts on the progression of music and where do you feel music – not just in this genre, but overall – has yet to go; or to put it another way, what do you feel is the next evolutionary step, both creatively and in terms of the industry?
Lindström: Great question, and a very hard question. Even though I’ve done some minor websites for the music scene, I see myself more as a fan and a listener rather than someone that actually knows something about the scene, or the industry as a whole. However, with the possibilities today with the internet and that anyone can pretty much have his or her own studio on a PC, I think there’s a risk of flooding. How to filter out what is good and what is bad; there’s going to be a huge demand for quality over quantity. Back in the day, you were very happy when you got a cassette tape from a friend with some synthpop or EBM, even if in retrospect, it was not that great, at least it was something. Today, we have access to everything, but finding quality gems is growing harder and harder.
Streaming is already a huge thing, but we probably need to figure out better ways to get the artists more than just a few crumbs for it. The shares are not perfect today. CDs and vinyl will continue to live on. I can only speak for myself, but if I find something on Spotify that I really like, I tend to buy the CD. There’s just something about having a physical copy that you can look at while you listen. And there’s also a lovely thing to open the tray, insert the CD, and press play; something ritualistic about it that you don’t get with the press of a mouse button.
There are plans to get a marketplace up and running on Electroracle in the future, very much depending on the success of the site, and that’s something I really look forward to.