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More Results from the Ektoplazm Free Music Survey 2009

Blog | November 7, 2010 | Posted by Basilisk

Is it JulyNovember already? My, how time flies. Back in January I invited visitors to respond to a site-wide survey, the bulk of which was used to compile a list of the Best Free Psytrance of 2009. The second half of the survey focused on visitor demographics and the user experience. I was fishing for feedback and–thanks to nearly 400 responses–received a lot of it! In the months that followed I sifted through the data, gained a better understanding of who visits the site (or, at least, the sub-segment of visitors who like to fill out surveys), and deployed code to satisfy several common feature requests.

The big picture: most respondents (87%) agree that the music on Ektoplazm is above average or downright awesome. Similarly, many respondents (83%) think the official in-house netlabel releases are above average or even better. These results are likely to be very biased but it is still gratifying to receive such overwhelmingly positive feedback! At least the survey engaged visitors with varying levels of familiarity with the site; some had just started (11%), others had discovered Ektoplazm earlier in 2009 (35%), many know the site from a few years ago (42%), and there were a few from “way back” (12%).

Some of the most illuminating insights emerged from the pair of questions asking what styles people were interested in hearing more or less of. (Note that respondents were invited to select as many or as few options as they liked so these figures will not total 100% when added together.) There were loud calls for more Goa (44%) and darkpsy (43%), while downtempo (31%), experimental (31%), progressive (30%), and full-on (28%) also enjoyed strong support. 12% of respondents asked for something completely different and Forest, Suomi, and psybreaks/drum ‘n bass have become official styles offered by Ektoplazm as a result. Some others–glitch, dubstep, industrial, world beat, and ambient–are already encompassed by experimental and downtempo, but I wouldn’t be opposed to adding more specific styles if and when enough suitable releases are sent over to justify the addition. Whatever the genre, I am interested in maintaining a focus on music with a certain transportive quality.

Fewer people were interested in identifying styles they weren’t keen on. Of those that responded, most were critical of techno (35%), with full-on (26%), darkpsy (26%), and progressive (21%) also earning some scorn. Goa (15%) and experimental (13%) brought out the fewest detractors. Darkpsy and full-on are polarizing styles, evidently–there is a divide between those who would like to hear more and those who would like to hear less. It is too bad people beat up on techno so much but I’m not about to abandon it as a style since I am personally so invested in it these days. I will, however, stick to the more psychedelic techno releases instead of branching out into more conventional releases. A few comments under “other” indicated a distaste for cheese–which I interpret as meaning commercial-sounding vocal stuff–and I will continue to try and filter that sort of thing out. I figure that Ektoplazm visitors prefer a more underground approach and shy away from music that simply imitates or recycles popular electronic music. At the same time, I am very open to artists making use of the human voice in interesting ways and don’t wish to limit their creativity. It is tricky to find the right balance here and you are always welcome to voice your opinion if and when I get it wrong!

Digital media preference was evenly divided between MP3 (50%) and the two lossless formats, WAV (29%) and FLAC (21%). This squares with what I see on the back-end; MP3 download counts are usually about twice as high as FLAC and WAV combined. Ideally I would like to see more visitors getting into FLAC as time goes on–it really is the superior format–but MP3s are also useful for portable devices and those with limited bandwidth.

I also asked people where they get most of their new music. Most follow the netlabel scene and download free and legal music (29%), many buy physical media (21%), plenty use BitTorrent and P2P sharing to pirate commercial music (16%), few use paid download services like iTunes and Beatport (9%), and a minority futz around with streaming sites like Spotify and last.fm (4%). Would you believe that 13% get most of their music from Ektoplazm? That’s cool. I suspect illegal download is under-reported, or perhaps those who are into the free music scene were more inclined to respond to the survey in the first place.

The next section focused on release descriptions and packaging. Most people were happy with how music is presented here but there were a few comments and suggestions, many of which I have already taken action on. Previously I only posted a single track for previewing but visitors can now sample an entire release before downloading. I have also–as of June–begun to post the previews in higher quality (128kbps stereo instead of 96kbps mono). BPMs are now listed, by request. A few readers requested track durations in the release write-ups but this seems superfluous to me–and work-intensive. If I can find a way to automate it I promise to add this feature (again). Finally, one respondent asked for a “related downloads” feature that is now live on the site. It still needs some tuning but it works fairly well, displaying a weighted list of similar releases based on artist, label, style, and region.

Facebook was the most popular channel to receive updates (39%) followed by Twitter (16%) and RSS (15%). I have since added an option to subscribe by email that I hope will be helpful for those who use none of the above. All of these options are now more visible on the home page and in the site footer to help everyone keep up with the free music posted on Ektoplazm. It is also possible to subscribe to RSS feeds for specific styles–just browse on over and click on the RSS logo that you find near the top.

The question about donating to Ektoplazm exposed an interesting result. While only 7% have already donated, fully 72% said they will donate (or think about donating) in the future. This seems promising. What would I have to do to earn your support?

I will be doing another survey in January 2011 so if there are any questions you feel I should ask just write them in the comments. And, one more time: a big thank you to everyone who responded last year!


  • Val Vashar says:

    interesting and professional article %-)

  • Bizeeeeeeeeew says:

    You do what you do well indeed. I enjoy reading about it and taking part in surveys. More than happy to donate when I can afford it and very grateful that you include stuff like the forest and experimental psy styles. I also support the techno and agree with you being very selective of the kind of techno you chose to offer as its obviously an extremely broad genre. I really liked Ben Ramas EP and Tapwatr in particular.

    As far as full on goes, I find the ‘sound’ to be too formulaic for the most part, the same with a lot of Goa, but the stuff you chose to put up is usually of technically good quality which is important with these styles to set it apart from the rest of their genre. Crisp sound like on the sonika and southwild releases.

    It would be nice to hear some quality fast (160-190) stuff, not sure what to call that style of Psytrance but I dont think Ive ever seen any on here. Like Cosmo, kashyyyk, Furious, Loose Connection etc. Obviously stuff is just chosen from what is offered but I just though Id mention that as it does seem like the least represented of the newer more experimental sounds.

    Peace and thanks ektoplazm

  • John Barker says:

    I love how Ektoplazm is still a continuous work in progress. As always, awesome work! It means a lot.

  • BraneFreeze says:

    (1) The music player volume control is hard to use at low volume settings. You might consider making it a little larger or using a different design.

    (2) You might consider the following addition to the left side column of your site: quick links to the music listings for each of the various music styles (goa, full-on, whatever). [Alternative: one link to a music styles index page that then links to each of the music listings]

    (3) Gone but not forgotten? Psy dub anyone?

    All in all, a great site!

  • Rf says:

    BraneFreeze, There is quite a bit of dub style ambient tracks here (if that’s what you mean) it’s just all that music is labeled as downtempo so you have to search through, ambient, experimental, ambient trance, soundscapes, trip hop and such. In fact I would say there is too much ambient made in dub style all around, I miss the creative Orb and FSOL aproaches.

    Putting “Techno” as a style that people want to hear less…. It’s a bit unfair, since it’s such a broad genre, psy-techno, minimal techno, techno-house, hard techno, acid techno, progressive techno, dark techno, techno-trance. What if I said I want to hear less “Trance” that would include 90 percent of music here, full on, goa, darkpsy, progressive, suomi are all trance sub genres.

    With that I am kind of curious what is the point in knowing about the genres that people don’t like? The way I see it, if you don’t like a certain style – don’t download it. It’s free. So why complain about something that we hold no obligation to. The times of buying CDs based on the cover and artists list or label are over you don’t have to regret spending the money in a gamble anymore.

    Personally I spend much less time browsing here now, because it’s like “oh another darkpsy or full on release, I already have quite a few good ones”. Of course the more the merrier. But I don’t see the point in satisfying people that already get enough of what they want? You like bananas? Well here is a ton. Maybe if someone saw someone else eating an opuntia, they’d stop monkeying around :).

    But I am happy with the site and want to thank you and everyone for making this possible.


    With preview streaming taking a solid position will it be possible to have individual track downloads (maybe it will help control the bandwidth a bit) ?

  • ROTTERDXM says:

    Warning: I’m going to be moving slightly off-topic here, but I really wanted to pipe up:

    I definitely support the (psychedelic) techno side of things, as that’s the interesting, challenging and danceable music I love most these days. And it’s natural that you’ve branching out into ‘straight’ techno: the same has happened to me. Compare Kino Oko’s ‘cinematic psytech’ with VX’s ‘Fiction’ (which leans far towards the other, Tresor-techno style of the scale yet is very popular as a crossover style.

    Ektoplazm has helped me to discover this style in more depth and has fueled my passion for it with new releases. Thanks so much for sticking to your guns. In 3 months, I’ll be organizing my first real techno/dubtechno/psytechno event in the Netherlands. I think the crossover potential is huge: in my experience DJing, it’s resonated really well with general lovers of electronic dance music, and fans of minimal/progressive techno/house and also the psyfreaks. If it catches on (and I intend to do my part in that), the plan is to get some of these amazing people who totally revitalized the style to the Netherlands.

    Open up with some Extrawelt, moving through Fuzzion, finish up with Anakoluth

    For me, the most awesome moment was checking out the tracklist of Opsy’s DJ sets (as Kanc Cover) and discovering that I had cobbled together the same artists as he had, independently. Definitely felt like I was on the right track there :)

    By the way, I started a FaceBook page on psychedelic techno a while back, and I’ve been featuring quite a few Ektoplazm releases. They go over REALLY well. If you are, or anyone else is interested, check out http://www.facebook.com/pages/Psychedelic-Techno/112922275431710
    I also wrote a lengthy essay on the history of the style, highlighting important releases. I’ve done my research, but I may have missed something. If so, let me know :)

    tl;dr version:
    Keep the psytechno, and preferably the techno too. Rock on.

  • Basilisk says:

    Thanks for the suggestions everyone! A few specific comments follow…

    @Biz: finding quality psycore for free is somewhat tough. There is a lot of amateur stuff out there but I will continue to assess new releases for distribution here. You are welcome to scan the free release section at Triplag; I might miss something good since there are so many releases posted in their forums.

    @BraneFreeze: psy dub is a new style here at Ektoplazm and I hope to find more to post in the future :)

    @rf: knowing what people aren’t into is helpful as well, particularly if there isn’t a strong desire for more of a given style. Individual track downloads are often requested and I am looking into offering such a service.

    @ROTTERDXM: thanks for the support on the techno issue! I still believe in it strongly.

    Many of these topics will be revisited in February or March when I post the results from the 2010 survey (which is accessible from the homepage from now until January 31st).

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