Nordic Talks part 2: Feeding the grass so that flowers could bloom
The participants in the second installment of Nordic Talks were folk and world music professionals from all over the Nordics. The session, held on June 10, included speakers from all sides of the music industry.
The conversation series was started by Music Finland in order to share the good practices, ideas and thoughts, that the Nordic music industry has innovated for the future as a result of the covid-19 crisis. On this second segment of the series, we focused on the world and folk music genres in the Nordics. The participants were from many different sides of the business: booking agents, festivals, managements, record labels and education.
Again, there were two main points in the discussion: solutions – the new innovations, opportunities and tools on how the companies and their artists have adjusted their business to the current situation, and the new practices – how will these new solutions remain a part of the companies’ business after the pandemic crisis.
The music professionals in the conversation were:
- Peter Hvalkof (Roskilde Festival / ALICE, Denmark)
- Jakob Kragesand (Studenterhuset, Denmark)
- Laia Kverneland (TEMPI Export office, Denmark)
- Marisa Segala (Second To The Left, Denmark)
- Anne-Mari Hakamäki (Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, Finland)
- Minna Huuskonen (Minnamurra Music Management & Booking)
- Aija Lehtonen (Bafe's Factory, Finland)
- Minna-Mari Roms (Art Prevolution, Finland)
- Annamaija Saarela (G Livelab Tampere, Finland)
- Svavar Knútur Kristinsson (IsFolk, Iceland)
- Alexandra Archetti Stølen (Oslo World, Norway)
- Frøydis Bergheim Ruud (Grappa/Heilo, Norway)
- Saleh Mahfoud (OK World, Norway)
- Per-Kristian Rekdal (Musikkprofil, Norway)
- Ane Carmen Roggen (Riksscenen, Norway)
- Bugge Wesseltoft (OK World, Norway)
- Malin Kairis (MTA Production, Sweden)
- Susanne Rosenberg (Royal College of Music, Sweden)
- Hilda Sandgren (MTA Production, Sweden)
- Elin Sleipnes (Caprice Records, Sweden)
- Malin Spjuth (Urkult, Sweden)
Record labels branching out
Claims that the pandemic has not affected the recording industry are not entirely true, it seems according to the participants of this discussion. For example, Bafe’s Factory, a Finnish label specialised on folk and world music admit that they’ve had to focus more on sync as well as publishing sheet music of items from their back catalogue.
The bands and musicians have had some adjusting too: A cappella band Tuuletar has been composing music for a children’s musical for next Spring, while guitarist and composer J-P Piirainen has branched out even more by creating a training program including time and life management as well as work efficiency management – which has been added to Uniarts study programs.
Another record label has been developing a new online platform for musicians to rehearse together.
Another record label has been developing a new online platform for musicians to rehearse together. Which is a great idea, since one musician in a multinational band explained in the conversation, how difficult it is to gather to practice or record music with the traveling restrictions active.
Frøydis Bergheim Ruud from Norway based label Grappa/Heilo mentioned the biggest challenge having been adjusting project management to the company’s suddenly reduced capacity. Since it was difficult to predict what effects this situation would have, projects had to be put on hold quickly, in order to save money and adjusting to 50 per cent of the staff being laid off.
One record label representative mentioned that the situation has given him free time on his hands, so he has been able to do promotion, consulting and project management, as well as being involved in a start-up working towards technical solutions for folk and jazz musicians.
For live music venues in the world and folk music scenes, the situation has been as grim as for anyone. G Livelab Tampere had to close down on 12th of March – the same week as covid-19 restrictions began in Finland. The award-winning music venue quickly developed an application to stream shows from their premises. For the future, G Livelab is hoping to use a hybrid model, combining streams and live concerts.
Something is live in the state of Denmark as well: from June 2020 onwards, Peter Hvalkov from the Copenhagen based venue ALICE cph and Roskilde Festival is organising small outdoor concerts with local artists in his own yard – with limited number of participants and restrictions on how the audience can move around.
For festivals, things may have been even worse – for example Malin Spjuth the promoter for Sweden's Urkult festival mentioned, that this period has taught to being creative with economy. The festival has been coping by trying to save money and get donations for next year’s edition, while doing a small online event during the actual festival dates.
Kaustinen folk festival started an artist development project to give something back to the artists that they are depending on.
Kaustinen folk festival did their part by starting an artist development project to give something back to the artists that they are depending on. Their idea is “to feed the grass so that the flowers could bloom”, says the festival’s Program Director Anne-Mari Hakamäki:
“We are building a meeting point for people practicing various fields of musical heritage. Our aim is to support and enhance the communication and interaction professional and amateur musicians”, Hakamäki continues. Besides that, Kaustinen will also host a virtual festival in July 2020.
Oslo World – one of Europe’s leading venue festivals – was also quick to make their own “digital leap”: they quickly realized that online promotion is the best thing to do now and started building a digital map of world music festivals. Festival director Alexandra Archetti Stølen introduced their award winning application Map the World, which includes playlists from festivals all over the globe, so you can basically listen to it like an online radio.
The show must go on-line
The agents and promoters involved in Nordic Talk had the same experience: all bookings for their artists have been moved to next year. Instead the artists have been recording music now and selling concerts on demand.
Online concerts were seen as good promotion for the artists also in the world and folk music community, but for venues they weren’t seen economically viable, if there was no income from the door. In Denmark, the Danish Art Council has supported musicians’ fees under corona restrictions, which have been only possible to use for online concerts, so that has made it possible to play streaming shows without an entrance fee.
The Danish Art Council has supported musicians’ fees under corona restrictions, available for online concerts only.
A Swedish booking company mentioned making ”digital business developing” on streaming concerts, and trying to organise digital concerts with voluntary donations, as well as trying out pay per view shows.
Digital exports in the material world
Even though not actual event organisers, export offices have had to adjust as well. Music Finland had planned to do an export trip to Mexico during the spring season, which was obviously cancelled. Instead of the physical trip, an online export trip was organized for the chosen companies. Many other workshops were also realized through digital platforms, as well as Music Finland’s first ever online showcase event (carried out in June 2020).
Export offices have granted new supports or redefined old ones to better include digital promotion, in order to sustain music export through the crisis.
Export offices have used the time released from physical events to doing more promotion and communication, as well as lobbying. They have also granted new supports or redefined old ones to better include digital promotion, in order to sustain music export in these exceptional circumstances.
But even with layoffs, the employees in Sweden based MTA Production have been working hard: giving sessions to artists, promoters, venues and festivals as well as doing teaching and workshops. Laia Kverneland from TEMPI Export office in Denmark, also mentioned, that this period has taught the importance of exporting music to more nearby areas – at least when travel is safe to your neighboring countries.
Read Nordic Talks part 1 focusing on record labels, music managers and publishers.