Label feature: Svart Records

Operating from the coastal town of Turku, Svart Records has in a short time become one of the most prominent independent record labels in Finland. Notable releases this year include new albums by Beastmilk, Oranssi Pazuzu, Paavoharju and Jess & The Ancient Ones.

Svart Records began as a reissue label concentrating on vinyl releases in 2009, but the label has since extended its operations into releasing new releases as well. We discussed with the label’s founder Tomi Pulkki.

”We started by contacting Spinefarm Records, asking if we could purchase a few vinyl licenses to albums we personally wanted to have on vinyl. It then spun out of control and we ended up with the hobby becoming a full time job in a year. We never considered ourselves a reissue company to begin with, such a label would be too limiting, but reissues were an easier entry into the world of record releasing than trying to push new bands would have been”, Tomi says. 

Governed strongly by personal taste, the label has released everything from experimental hip hop to black metal, from folk to hardcore punk and from stoner doom to goth rock. Counting the reissues and 7 inches, Svart has released approximately 100 titles per year. Pulkki has built an efficient distribution network in several European countries and is working on a proper US distribution currently. 

“In addition to distribution we also sell directly to over a hundred stores worldwide. Reissues I promote by myself as there's not much of a budget in a small-run repress, but I got an US publicist on our payroll, and he spreads news of every new album we put out. I also do some more localized PR with agencies in Germany, UK, Finland, Sweden and Norway when I think it is necessary for the album in question.” 

The German speaking area, Western Europe and the UK are the strongest market areas for the label. ”Finnish punk sells well in Japan and the USA, death and doom metal sell in Central Europe and the USA, and so on.” 

Beastmilk’s debut album Climax has received positive press from NME, Pitchfork and The Guardian, while Oranssi Pazuzu’s Valonielu was chosen on the Album of the year 2013 lists of  Stereogum, The Quietus and Popmatters. Tomi tells about the groundwork done for the records: 

”I licensed both albums out to a US label, 20 Buck Spin for Valonielu and Magic Bullet for Climax, so I could fully concentrate on Europe. We've done plenty of groundwork on both albums, spread 500 copies of both titles as promos a few months before release, allocated qualified PR agencies in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia, sent a few thousand digital promos worldwide, so we had a positive response from the media early on.”

The year 2014 seems as busy for the label as ever: ”I have a dozen new albums lined up for the first two or three quarters of the year, and a few dozen reissues as well from the [Finnish label] Love Records and Warner back catalogues. We are going to try and cut down the number of releases from a hundred a year to 60-70, let's see how that turns out.”