Ventla, i-fls and the road out of the Web

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo bedroom producer Ventla has one goal and one goal only.

“Ventla is in the process of releasing 100 digital albums for free over the coming years,” he declares on his website.

So far, the relatively anonymous music maker has achieved a quarter of his goal, having uploaded 25 full-lengths to the Web. Ventla’s recordings (which rarely sound the same, one album was a workout in 1980s synths and the next was an all-acoustic sing-a-long) have gotten attention from U.S. music websites such as Tiny Mix Tapes and Impose, and he’s been mentioned by American chiptune outfit Anamanaguchi.

This modest success wouldn’t have been possible in the pre-Internet music world. Musicians of all types now have the means to control distribution, release and communicate directly with fans. Without the Internet, an artist like Yusuke Kawai (aka tofubeats) likely wouldn’t have been signed by Warner Music Japan.

Kawai’s success is rare, the discovered-on-YouTube dream doesn’t come true for everyone. Even though Ventla is using the Internet in a novel way, does he have a shot at ever crossing over from the digital world?

Kawai isn’t the first producer to transition from the Internet to a major label, and he says he’s not even the first to emerge from a netlabel. Vocaloid artist kz, who also recorded as part of the outfit livetune, released music through Maltine Records under the name RE:NDZ without the digi-voice of Hatsune Miku. Other Vocaloid acts have attracted attention on web-streaming site Nico Nico Douga, while singer Gille scored a deal with Universal thanks to her covers of popular songs posted on YouTube.

Those artists went viral, their successes tied to larger popular trends and video views. Ventla is off in his own world, recording whatever sounds good to him at the time and sharing it via MegaUpload. Similar to him is fellow Tokyoite i-fls, who released 12 albums and EPs through the music-sharing platform Bandcamp in 2012. Each of his collections is made using the software program GarageBand, and his work tends to evoke feelings of suburban nostalgia (helped by titles such as “Residential Town Loneliness”). Both he and Ventla are chasing specific muses, and it seems neither is really concerned with catching the attention of any major label.

If the hunger to get further suddenly strikes, will it be possible to rise up the ranks on their own terms? If that’s the case both Ventla and i-fls may want to follow the lead of Kyoto producer Kazumichi Komatsu (aka Madegg). He has been releasing new music on SoundCloud and Bandcamp for free over the years and has found ways to get full-length albums into Tower Records and open for all sorts of electronic artists ? most recently Sweden’s The Field. The Internet has allowed anyone to share music, but it’s ultimately all up to the artist as to where the Web can lead them.

For more information on Ventla, visit www.ventla.tumblr.com. For more information on i-fls, visit http://ifls.bandcamp.com. For more information on Madegg, visit http://flavors.me/kazumichikomatsu.