Norwegian music continues to gain momentum abroad, is the conclusion when Inger Dirdal at Music Export Norway (MEN) takes a look at the year behind us. Artists such as Sondre Lerche, St. Thomas, and Ephemera spread their music to even more fans in 2003. (Promo photo: Stian Andersen)
"I am impressed by how many Norwegian artists who are going abroad, trying to gain international attention. For most, it takes years before they can make an earning from their music. It requires that they again and again perform at small clubs", says Inger Dirdal, managing director at MEN.
"Things have changed the last few years. People in the international music industry have much more knowledge of Norwegian music, know more names of bands, and acknowledge that great music is coming from Norway".
When 2003 ended, Kaizers Orchestra were touring in Berlin. Surferosa spent their share of the time on the roads a few months ago, and Sondre Lerche toured the US five times last year, just to name a few.
Metal, jazz and electronika in the forefront
"Look at St.Thomas, Kaada, and Ephemera; they are good examples of someone who have been working slowly but steadily to establish a name abroad. Amulet, Ricochets, and Thomas Dybdahl have all just started, so exciting things are on their way", says Dirdal.
She also points out how Norway has become a pioneer within black metal music.
"Several of the Norwegian metal bands have been on international stages for years, since the domestic market is so small. In general, I think Norwegian music is most recognised internationally within genre such as metal, jazz, and electronika. Norwegian rock is also coming along well".
MEN were established in 2000 by the Norwegian music industry. Organised as a limited company, MEN provide access to information on Norwegian artists and companies. In addition, they assist the Norwegian music industry by organising international trade show participation and presentations designed to increase the worldwide awareness of Norwegian music.
Two million extra
A few weeks ago, MEN received NOK two million (£170000) extra over the state budget as a result of the budget compromise between the government parties and the opposition Labour party. It was the Standing Committee on Business and Industry at the Storting that granted the money for MEN and their international projects.
"We consider this a great recognition of our work for the past three years, says Dirdal.
She explains that the two million will be spent on sponsoring artists' participation on music trade shows, marketing, promo CDs, magazines, as well as increasing the general level of competence within the Norwegian music industry to become more professional.
Eight new promo CDs
Every year, MEN represents and promotes Norwegian music at trade shows throughout Europe, such as Eurosonic, MIDEM, South by Southwest, Popkomm, Womex, and In The City. These days, Dirdal is receiving suggestions on which tracks to include on some upcoming promo CDs covering eight genres: pop, rock, metal, jazz, elektronika, classic, world music/traditonal, and blues/country.
"The purpose of the CDs is to create tools to people who promote Norwegian music internationally. A group of qualified persons will select which tracks to include", says Dirdal. The CDs will be handed out at MIDEM in Cannes and South by Southwest in Texas.
2003 was also the year when negative market trends for the music industry hit Norway. In November, the total domestic phonogram market in Norway was reduced by 10 % compared to last year. However, Dirdal is not worried.
"Even though people are buying less music, Norwegian music consumers are still supporting Norwegian artists by buying their CDs, which is very positive", says Dirdal.
Domestic artists increased their share of the Norwegian music market this year. Norwegian artists were featured on 20 % of all consumed CDs, DVDs, and singles, compared to 18 % last year.