The literature on netlabels is limited. This is because the development of netlabels is a relatively new phenomenon. Netlabels can be defined as platforms for online distribution and promotion of music released under Creative Commons or similar licenses. It is important to note that allowing listeners to download music for free is not synonymous with nonprofit orientation. Netlabels are one of several new forms of organisation of phonographic activities, which have emerged in recent years (Burkart, 2010).
It is probable that the evolution of the music market will enable netlabels to implement profit-oriented business models one day, which would lead to a convergence of netlabels and traditional record labels into some form of new record label. Today, this scenario is rather improbable as most netlabels draw a symbolical division between them- selves and the traditional music business. During the last 10 years, the recording industry has been subject to several upheavals which makes it very difficult to anticipate its future. The history of netlabels, compared to the history of traditional record companies, is so short that predicting their future is almost impossible. Netlabels (contrary to traditional record companies) cannot go bankrupt. As long as their owners are enthusiastic about free music and artists want to have their music released by netlabels, there will be a place on the music scene for them. Therefore, the discussion on the existence of netlabels in the future should concentrate on the sustainability of their organizational form, rather than questioning the continuing desire for the availability of free music.
Finally, one could ask a question about the influence of netlabels on mainstream music. Can netlabels help an artist become a superstar, like in the case of MySpace or YouTube? Alternatively, will they always remain a niche phenomenon, recognisable only to dedicated electronic music fans? Even if netlabels were technically capable of helping a pop artist to achieve massive popularity, would such an artist be willing to continue cooperation with their netlabel, taking into account the possibility of signing lucrative recording deals with profit-oriented major record companies? Additional research on netlabels will not only help answer these questions, it should also help redefine our understanding of the recording industry. The advent of the Internet and digitalisation showed that the concept of the traditional record label is outdated. One day it may transpire that netlabels were only a dead end in the evolution of the recording industry, but they are certainly worth further analysis.
Netlabels are platforms for online distribution and promotion of music released for free under Creative Commons or similar licenses. They are part of the free music scene, which has been developing dynamically since the advent of the Internet and digitalization.
Netlabels are one of several types of MP3 sites based in the ideas of “file sharing” and “free culture” that have appeared on the music market since the 1990s. In contrast to peer– to–peer (P2P) networks, netlabels gained relatively little media attention and knowledge about them is concentrated mostly among free culture enthusiasts and listeners of electronic and experimental music genres. The reason is that netlabels do not violate copyright law and in most cases do not sell records on the mainstream recording market. They therefore are not a threat to the traditional record labels and consequently receive only limited attention from the mainstream media.