The Beginner’s Guide to Ektoplazm


This post exists to introduce outsiders to Ektoplazm, the free music portal I founded back in 2006. Over the years it grew to be the world’s #1 source of free and legal psytrance, techno, and downtempo music, a niche market in which I inadvertently became tremendously influential. I will begin with a brief explanation of what psytrance is, outline the history of Ektoplazm and my involvement in the scene, and explore the question of why labels and artists choose to give their music away for free. If you’re reading this in the present day, I should note that this really only covers the history of the project from 2006 until 2012.

To begin with, psytrance is a type of electronic dance music with its own distinct history and customs. Partly because of its unique origin on the beaches of Goa in the late 1980s, psytrance developed in varying degrees of isolation from electronic music culture as a whole. This unusual situation fostered a great deal of creative experimentation; the music of psytrance culture is anything but homogeneous, encompassing a wide range of approaches from high-energy beats for the dance floor to chilled and relaxing sounds for deeper moments of contemplation and introspection. If you’ve never heard it before the best way to get a feel for the range and diversity of psytrance music is to explore the site and listen to whatever catches your ear.

My involvement in this culture began when I first encountered psytrance at a party in 1996. Not long afterwards I was browsing the web and discovered a web site offering psytrance MP3 downloads. I was hooked by what I heard and rapidly became a devoted fan, record collector, and DJ. When I founded Ektoplazm in 2000 it followed that I would focus on my musical interests at the time, namely psytrance and several related styles of electronic music. Back then it was just a personal homepage for my activities in the local scene. Before long I decided to start a record label, naively settling on vinyl as my release medium of choice. My first (and only) release with this label in 2002 was a total disaster but I learned a lot about the music industry in the process. For a while I gave up on running a record label and returned to music fandom.

In the years that followed I became embroiled in the ongoing debate about file-sharing and music piracy. The Napster revolution had come and gone, forever changing how we consume music, but the recording industry was doing everything it could to resist progress. Apple launched the iTunes Store with major label support in 2003 but this didn’t do a lot of good for fans of an underground style like psytrance. Even if you actually wanted to pay money for digital media you were out of luck: there were no legal download shops offering a wide selection of psytrance releases (and perish the thought of being able to procure lossless/CD-quality audio files). Pirate sites had it all, of course.

At this point (around 2003–2006) the labels and distributors of the psytrance scene could have joined forces to innovate and offer something better than free to combat rampant piracy and weakening sales. Instead, they took a cue from the major labels and sunk most of their effort into shaming potential customers with an anti-piracy campaign. Their dubious choice of slogans: “copy kills your music” (and no, I am not making this up). When a few emerging services began to offer legal psytrance MP3s they were always priced above the average per-unit cost of a song sold on physical media (e.g. the cost of the CD divided by the number of songs on it). This struck me as particularly insane: charging more than the cost of a CD for a lossy version of the music it contains? The selection in these shops was quite limited as well, though it wasn’t necessarily the fault of the shop itself. I suspect that a lot of label owners believed digital downloads would eat into their CD sales. They were probably right to be concerned—but their failure to adapt to changing listener habits did nothing to address piracy. Guilt trips and expensive, poorly-stocked MP3 shops appeared to be the extent of the underground establishment’s response.

I observed another issue, one that is somewhat specific to smaller musical subcultures: as sales figures dwindled labels were becoming increasingly risk-averse. Unconventional artists and newcomers were having a tough time getting their music released—and there was no way to reach listeners except through established distribution channels because no one paid much attention to anything else. The labels, then, were the gatekeepers—and they strongly preferred trendy, marketable music from well-known names. Meanwhile, many long-time fans were griping about the creative bankruptcy of newer psytrance releases. This situation struck me as being antithetical to psytrance culture itself—after all, this culture values the unconventional and elevates “thinking outside the box” to a virtue, but the industry itself was playing it safe. Unconventional artists were always welcome to start their own labels—and many did—but the distributors were not always helpful. Since the market was contracting in this time period every additional release forced existing label partners to accept a smaller slice of the pie. For a lot of artists the choice began to look like this: conformity or obscurity.

After digesting countless books and articles about free culture I relaunched Ektoplazm in 2006 with the intention of promoting free music licensed under the Creative Commons as a viable alternative to the traditional music distribution system in the psytrance scene. I meant to agitate for change, lead by example, and disrupt the status quo. I aimed to provide artists with another choice beyond conformity or obscurity: massive exposure, artistic freedom, and good karma. At first there wasn’t much of a response to the concept; no one—not even the free labels and artists—took free music seriously in those early days. “You get what you pay for” was a common refrain. To address this sentiment I became a tireless advocate for higher quality standards in free music. My vision: free releases every bit as good as what could be bought in stores. This called for high-resolution album artwork, lossless/CD-quality audio files, and proper mastering. Gradually this vision became a reality as more and more labels and artists came on board with the concept. Nowadays there are many examples of free albums that rival the quality of their commercial counterparts.

Ektoplazm fulfilled its primary mission to legitimize and popularize the distribution of free music in the psytrance scene sometime around 2010. Since then I’ve focused on adding more and more releases to the site to keep up with surging demand for new music—and for access to the platform. By now (summer 2012) Ektoplazm has served more than 6.7 million full releases and 30–35 million tracks to millions of listeners all around the planet. This is rather impressive given that Ektoplazm has catered to such an obscure niche market. To put this in perspective, Bandcamp, the most comparable distribution service for independent musicians of any genre, claims to have served up 34 million downloads to date. How can this be? I attribute the success of Ektoplazm to a number of things:

  • Ektoplazm is a curated resource. I pick and choose what I post on the site. It isn’t like YouTube where just anyone can upload music. I have a rather stringent process for demos and release submissions. I can’t promise that every release will appeal to every listener—but I can promise that the releases on the site will tend to meet a minimum quality standard.
  • Ektoplazm is committed to artistic expression. Commercial labels have to play it safe and keep an eye on the bottom line but I consider it my duty to take a chance on weird and unusual releases. This is the other side of “free”: not only are you welcome to download the music free of charge (gratis) but I also do my best to remove restrictions on artistic expression (libre). This benefits artists as well as music lovers everywhere.
  • Ektoplazm connects independent labels and artists with a massive audience. This is not just a happy accident; the site was designed to take advantage of the power of digital distribution. With no registration necessary the barriers to access have been lowered and individual releases are primed to go viral. Ektoplazm regularly facilitates 5,000–10,000 (or more) downloads per release. How does this stack up against the other options? Assuming Beatport, the largest commercial portal for electronic music downloads, has 1 million tracks in its catalog and 80 million sales, that’s about 80 sales per track, each earning less than a dollar. If an artist is keen to earn some cash for their work (and not everyone is) they might be better off giving their music away if it leads to even one paid booking. How about other free offerings? Bandcamp allocates 200 free downloads per account per month. Ektoplazm presently has no such limit.
  • Ektoplazm is fanatical about lossless quality audio and kick-ass metadata. Why should we take a step back from the quality standards set in the 1980s? Bizarrely enough, some commercial shops still refuse to offer lossless/CD-quality downloads. The shops that do often impose frivolous “WAV handling fees” (I’m looking at you, Beatport). Ektoplazm offers a choice between WAV, which is still useful for burning direct to CD, and FLAC, a newer, more compressed (yet still lossless) format that allows embedded metadata such as album artwork and track information. And that’s another thing—buy a song from one of the commercial shops and you’ll be stuck downloading some horribly-named file (e.g. “92809_The_Muddy_Morning_Hymn_Original_Mix.wav” from Beatport) lacking any kind of useful metadata. Ektoplazm does it right: simple, standardized file names with all the obvious metadata embedded alongside album artwork and BPMs (for all the DJs out there).
  • Ektoplazm feels good. Independent labels and artists share music here because they want to. Music lovers enjoy guilt-free downloads. Everyone wins!

The wonderful thing about working on this project is that I don’t have to simply talk about the music—you can hear it yourself! To start you off on the right track I’ve selected thirteen releases reflecting the creative and stylistic diversity of Ektoplazm’s offerings from 2006–2012. This part of the guide is available on the original version of this article that appeared on the Ektoplazm blog. Thanks for reading and enjoy the music!


  1. Great guide and an awesome selection of albums. I think this will work great for the site

  2. Yepp…I actually can’t even imagine a world without Ektoplazm and I believe many can’t ! It has served its followers greatly and working with you, Ektoplazm, has always been and will remain to be a pleasure, I’m sure of that 🙂

    Big thanx to Basilisk !

  3. I’m very happy this is happening, many people could listen quality songs and free of charge!
    This is musical freedom!

  4. Wow, I’m so happy to see Dimensional Gateway here. The other releases are also amazing. The whole concept of Ektoplazm is just great 😀

  5. Oh, I got a mention at the end of the post! :O Thanks <3
    Ektoplazm has always been a great website for me. Not only because of the great music but because of the learning experience. By listening to releases here, I have learned a lot about genres I didn't really know anything about. Thanks for everything and I will support you with this new venture. 🙂

  6. My love and support for this great Love for Music….Although still struggling to make something from my music (so i could support this great cause financially as well)….my undying love and support……A Big BooM from Nepal.

  7. Awesome explanation and history. Good to see how you refreshed the site and got the albums rolling. Big props to you, brother!

  8. Awsome post. This is why I love visiting this website everyday. Not only free music, but free culture. Congrats from Brazil!!!

  9. Hi, i’m French, and i use Ektoplazm since few years 🙂

    Thx for all your work !

  10. This site has become one of my most fav sites and I’m spell-bounded by the collection of Psytrances…lovely…<3

  11. this is something i always loved,a peace of great high quality electronic music and sharing with trance society

  12. Most excellent site. Funny that I’m 60 years old and can’t get enough of this stuff but my adult kids don’t get this.

  13. Dudes, just keep on doing what you do coz it’s mega
    and loved by all !!!
    many many thanks from uk

  14. Digitalisation and the internet have provided a spectacular array of opportunities.

    On the one hand, governmental agencies can gain tighter control and wider surveillance, corporate bodies can gain more and better entry routes for their insidious methods to encourage mindless consumption and conformity, and individuals are presented with easier and more satisfying ways of giving away their privacy in preparation for future assaults on their freedom.

    On the other, sites such as Ektoplazm see the same collection of technological opportunities and use them to enlarge and strengthen the collectivities and concentrations of creative human spirit that refuse to be swept along with this tide of destruction, and provide us all with hope. Here, technology is harnessed in order to give and to share, not to take and control.

    Thank you so much for the difference you are making.

  15. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email.
    I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  16. Alexander, you’re a poet! The selection of music is mind-boggling: your description of each album release, on the other hand, is another story! Thank you! Peace and light from a nomadic Sri Lankan traipsing through India 🙂

  17. Thanks Alexander,you will be included on my meditation, for you selfless spirit by contributing for the propagation of good musics. The layout ,background, and webplayers of this site is pefect! Congrats!
    All the good vibes to you! Greetings from Brazil

  18. just happen to run across this site and im glad i did. thanks for the guide. i didnt know where to start

  19. gracias bazilic gracias y te digo gracias de vrdad te aprecio mucho como persona como lo q hiciste posible te agradeco aca y en la otra vid y en todas las vidas GRACIAS POR EXISTIR.. HACE MUCHO Q CONOSCO ESTA PAGINA DESDE Q COMENS¿ZA A ESCUCHAR PSYTRANCE Y TE QUIERO MUCHO HERMANO..

  20. I ran first across this site when trying to search for psychedelic trance (PT). Never looked back since. Before, I used to not know what music I liked…now PT has become an integral part of my life. Can’t ever live without music like this. I feel psychedelic trance is the real music. Songs from films and such albums touch your body and move you physically…spiritual songs touch your heart and move you from the inside…but PT touches the mind, body, heart and soul. Day starts with Afgin’s Aden Prayers, continues with many tracks found on the site and ends with the prayers again. Really can’t live without the music.

    A real good thanks to Basilisk for making this site and giving everyone access to this musical treasure. Apologies for not being able to financially support the site, but always appreciate the work done by all. Whenever I listen to the music I downloaded from here, I always am grateful to Ektoplazm and the site staff for making it available in the first place.

    And yes…this site is a real example of how the world should be…’free’ as in free beer and not as in free speech. This is the freedom that every aspect in the world needs to have.

  21. There are no words to describe how happy I am to discover the EKtoplam. Already knew some artists and they took me to the site, I will take time to listen to both quality work, but it has no price, that will bring me satisfaction. Thank EKtoplasm!!

  22. namaste ahoura shanti boo0m shanka we live in life with love in forest*** boo0m love ektoplazm to connect us with music talk boo0m time****

  23. Enlightening, high quality music, always. The universe and I are at peace, thank you Ektoplazm (and all the artists featured as well).

  24. Hi Basilisk (Alexander).

    Like the name stipulates, a giant serpent, with many facets, writhing around in the conscious and sub-conscious mind and universe. Creating an ambience of dramatic consequences from the slow relaxed beats, to the intense mind blowing/changing fast beats. I stumbled upon this impressive site some years ago when I was googling Trance Music, from then onwards there was no going back.

    This exceptional site has changed my life in ways that I am unable to manifest in words. I practice the art of Wicca/Witchcraft, and the music/albums have been beyond beneficial to my meditation and spiritual path.

    The quality of the albums/music are way above High Quality, they are stupendous. I have with this site been able to build up an impressive personal music collection, to which I an forever indebted to you. Once my finances improve, I will most certainly be making a donation to keep this site going.

    I just do not know how you are going to make what is the best music site on the web any better than the perfection personified that it is already. Keep up the exemplary outstanding work and look forward to new music as it becomes available.

    Kind Regards Jon 🙂

  25. Just stumbled across this website looking for an elusive Highpersonic Whomen album. Thank you so much!

  26. I first stepped into this site last year when searching for an artist I had read about elsewhere (Radioactive Sandwich.) But only this week have I truly explored the depth of Ektoplazm and downloaded several albums to try out the various genres. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the depth of talent here and the range of styles. For example, I’m listening to the first offering in this blog by Globular and its fantastic dubbiness… I was expecting only psytrance or psyambient but here is electro-dub, which is an equally favorite genre of mine (with the likes Pitch Black and OTT from the commercial side.)

    Reading your Introduction, I get it! In fact, I am truly impressed by your mission and success all these years. Congratulations are due but also the high level of production values these artists are holding too. I always felt that psy-musician’s have a shamanic spirituality to preach; it’s transforming music for these crazy days and times. Hey, I’m 60 years old this year and have a background of progressive/space rock from the 70’s as my musical core but without a doubt, I have found the music that touches my soul!

  27. Thank you for sharing great music, even in high quality format, a big respect for your mission and work.

  28. I’m impressed with it all, nice business model. i’m over 60 but still like the music. nice job will follow your site

  29. great website and also great musics.and one thing i should know please tell me..
    I am using fl studio cracked version i do compose my musics in it.. my query is to know is it illegal to compose music in pirated or cracker version . and also can i upload my musics (composed in cracked version) on web or online?

  30. Hello i have only posted a few comments on the site but have been a huge fan for at least six years now. Some releases that I would definitely like to add to this list would be the Mainspring Motion compilation, Dreamshadow compilation, both Anakoluth eps, Ben Rama – The Invisible Kingdom, Clone – Real Eyes, both Disco Hooligan albums and Everything released by Jikkenteki and Amygdala. I honestly consider the music of Jikkenteki and Amygdala to rival the music put out by Simon Posoford, Infected Mushroom and the rest of the huge names in psytrance. Timeless music that we are blessed to have for free!

  31. PS. I miss the basilisk essential selections which were a big part of my musical education. I haven’t been able to find anything else like them and feel lost in a sea of psytrance which has come out since their demise.

  32. just like many others, was just passing by and i found ( Ektoplazm ) and here i am in heaven ,,, never thought that heaven exist, but after that i found ( Ektoplazm ) ,, i am sure it do exist ,

    the huge amount of knowledge that i could learn from Ektoplazm is priceless, lots of great music ,, been hard to find them and been confused to make a difference between each one of this type ,,,

    thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu Alexander for your great hard work,,

    LOVE and Respect from ( EGYPT )

  33. Great website, Exclusive Music.
    Thanks for your time & energy spent in bringing all these gems to us.

    More power, God bless.

  34. thank you ektoplazm for opening the minds eye with music!!!!! boom!! god bless team ektoplazm .

    regards love n light!!!!!!

  35. THANK YOU FB!! I met someone on FB today that stays in another province in South Africa (than I), which was telling me that the trance festivals are really big there…

    I was on my first trance festival a week ago and had soooooooooooooo much fun! No club will see me again!

    I was telling this person that I needed to find some good psychedelic music to play with (as I’ve recently started DJing, July 2013) – and he referred me to your site! I have been playing progressive psytrance but am so excited to download some new tunes and play around with it!

    This is absolutely amazing and what you are doing for the industry – I get it! I don’t have a paypal account but will be setting one up to help you achieve your dream! You deserve it!

  36. just found your site, excellent, good philosophy, awesome quality of tracks.
    Very great thanks for continuing your master piece.

  37. Thank you Alexander, I have been an avid fan of Ektoplazm since 2010. Downloaded so many albums that have gifted me amazing moments in life. Keep it strong. 🙂

  38. ektoplazm ma permis de voyager a travers un monde éblouissant ! un choix de musique très pointu et très bon !
    merci a basilik ektoplazm et ceux qu’il l’on aider !

  39. I discovered ektoplazm some years ago by chance and was amazed with what i had found. The fact that all the music is free to anyone is just out of this world and the music itself is always top quality. Full props go to all the artists labels DJs and producers for constantly providing us with such good music time after time. I am on the site pretty much daily and have amassed a fantastic library courtesy of this great site. I will continue to be a regular and spread the word of ektoplazm far and wide. Peace Love Unity and Light to everyone. Thankyou so much 🙂

  40. Thanks for everything, brother Basilisk, this is beyond any imaginable goldmines, both regarding the whole concept and loads of quality content … I was always a kind of a random stranger to these vibes, but on the other hand, I’ve been into this music since mid 90’s, and this is a blessing and a gift I cannot be thankful enough for. The meticulous quality of sound and art, all broken down into styles, I can’t get enough of this … No matter how deep I go I always end someplace else in the morphing vastness of ektoplazm soundspace … Peace on, Love & Power ! 😉

  41. Basilisk, ありがとうございます, 谢谢, thank you! Exemplary post, superbly articulated. I went through so many phases of music — from producing early renaissance a capella CDs to ancient art music of China to Balinese gamelan to Bartok, Vaughan Williams, et al. Though I still love all that stuff, I have found myself enjoying high quality electronica, specifically psy trance more than almost any genre. And ektoplazm sets the gold standard, it’s par excellence!

  42. I just very recently got into psytrance. I have listened to quite a lot of extreme metal, so darkpsy is actually what first got my attention. This website has been an excellent resource for a beginner – like myself – to look into all of the nooks and crannies of this wonderful musical genre. I have found plenty to like in pretty much every single style.

    This intro has also been very noteworthy, and pretty much achieves everything it sets out to achieve with true aplomb. I applaud the philosophy, the execution, and the writing.

    That said, the one thing I found kinda disappointing is that the one darkpsy/forest recommendation is – by your own admission – watered down. I am not afraid of “sliding too far into the darkness” quite the contrary! Any recommendations?

  43. Ektoplazm has released some of the finest music I have ever heard, period. This beginners guide is great but if I were to add any releases they would have to be Amygdala – modus operandi + The Sprawl, both Anakoluth eps, organic circuitry, Spectral Circuitry, Disco Hooligans clear skies everything jikkenteki has done, Escape into – the dream Ben rama – the invisible kingdom, Pekkanikkarinen – Uni, Midiskibis – Twilight Troubadour, Mainspring Motion and many many many more!

  44. Thank You for it! This is a collection of very good albums from this site and I again discover a underground side of music.
    From this moment I go for vacation and I must finished a studies, but afer it… who know, I wanna back for discover more, and more, and more, and more….

  45. Just when I came to believe there`s nothing new on this planet I found you – thanx, Alex!

  46. Thanks, Alexander. Another white point on my music-map is now coloured!!!
    Brilliant stuff, I started with the beginners guide and now i want more…
    It will take me a lot of time to listen…
    Again, thanks a lot !

  47. Tks for the great work here on Ektoplazm.

    I`m from Brazil, and apreciate a lot great part of all the music here.
    How someone say up there, it will take a long time to listen to all the music I already downloaded.

    Keep up all the vibes.


  48. Thank you Basilisk! Ektoplasm is amazing! Is unbelievable to find all this great material for free!
    I can´t stop downloading, I can´t stop listening!
    Globular is great!
    Thank you so much!
    Hugs from Brazil.
    Donating in 3…2…1…

  49. Namaskara from Bengaluru, India.

    I have been ektoplazmic since 2 years and i must say whenever i want to listen to something elating this is where i go.
    I love the lossless music provided here.
    I’ve had quiet a few deep meditative experiences while listening to some of the albums here.

    Viva La Psychedelia !!! Peace and Love to all.

    Thank you very much.

  50. Thank you for this amazing resource. I’ve discovered some amazing artists here that I fell in love with, and I decided to stream them on my personal radio here at

    Goa is my favorite electronic music. It’s just unique among all electronic music.

    Once again, thanks! You’ve put a lot of effort and time into this. Seriously, thank you.

  51. Seems like a great site for Psytrance – an awesome way for artists and fans to discover unique content. One day, hopefully, I’ll have released some of my Psy tracks on the site! Still perfecting for now. 🙂

  52. Thank you very much for all the work you have put into this site, I am grateful for its existence.

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