Nordic Music Week: Optimism Galore And Found Songs

from the good-times dept

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the <a href=” target=”_blank”>Nordic Music Week event held in Stavanger, Norway. It was a smaller event, mainly involving those involved in the music industry in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland), with a heavy emphasis on independent musicians, as there were no major label representatives there. As such, the event was quite different than most of the typical music industry events I go to. There was very little fretting and worrying about “piracy” and such, and most of the discussions were quite forward looking and forward thinking. In fact, I’d say much of the event was downright optimistic about where the music industry was heading. While there were many great discussions (and I liked the fact that much of the event was focused around open table discussions, rather than just presentations), one of the most interesting presentations was by Òlafur Arnalds, an Icelandic musician, who started his presentation off by saying he disagreed with me and my presentation (which had been an updated variation on my NARM presentation), and had adjusted his presentation to be a response of sorts to mine. Except it wasn’t. His presentation was yet another great example of a musician who understood exactly what works in the industry, even as he thought he disagreed with me. We later chatted briefly about it, and realized we’re actually very much in agreement about where we stand on the industry. The confusion came about because he is really focused on the music, and felt that my presentation focused too much on the money aspect.

And, indeed, my presentation did focus somewhat on how to make money, but that’s because if I just focus on the music, people complain that no one will make money and then no one will make music. But, of course, that’s ridiculous. None of these models work particularly well if you don’t make great music. And Òlafur Arnalds makes great music — and once we started talking, even he admitted that in order to do what he does, he needs (and wants) to make a living (which he does). And his actual presentation was about how to do just that. It was all about how he closely connected with his fans and gave them a reason to buy (even if he didn’t like to think that way). Instead, he noted that he needed to come up with a good story to go with the music, that would help attract his fans, better connect them to him while also giving them a reason to support him monetarily.

So, with that idea (having a story behind the music) as his basis, he came up with a great project called ‘Found Songs’, where he would write, record and release a new song every single day for seven straight days. He did it all out of his bedroom. His fans then stepped up and created artwork for each song, and in some cases, amazing videos, such as this one below, which is truly beautiful, and within days had thousands upon thousands of views:

You can watch the videos, look at the artwork people created for the songs and even download all the songs for free as mp3s. But, there’s also a store where you can buy the beautifully packaged vinyl or CD versions of the album, and some higher quality digital downloads. In other words, it was yet another perfect example of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy (and, yes, it involved great music as well — which is, in fact, key). The importance of having a good story to go along with things, as we’ve seen with other projects, is a particularly good point. And, again, it shows how an infinite good (a good story) can increase the value of a scarce good (the products you’re selling). He also showed how his own fanbase increased massively after doing this project — much more so than when he was out opening for Sigur R?s. So, in the end, we absolutely agreed, and I found out about some more great music and yet another great story and example to go along with all the others.

Beyond that, I met a bunch of fascinating people doing very interesting and unique things in the music industry in the Nordic region. All of the Nordic countries are working hard to help enable their bands to adapt to a changing music environment, and there are definitely some very creative indie labels, artists and managers who are thinking through and implementing some great ideas that left me quite enthusiastic for what comes next. I also got a chance to meet Moto Boy, who took part in our CwF+RtB experiment, and see him perform live (which was fantastic). Overall, a very encouraging trip.

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Comments on “Nordic Music Week: Optimism Galore And Found Songs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

That music video was mesmerizing. My favourite part was not having to spend $0.03 for the licensing rights to view it.

That music video was almost like a commercial for the artist’s brand. The brand being the artist, or musician in this case. A commercial that was crowd-sourced for free.

I can see why the recording industry is frightened of all this change.

“What?!? They’re making music videos for free? They’re making music for free? How can we compete? That’s not fair! We need to bribe, sorry, lobby some political hacks to ensure this is put to a stop!”

And that’s how ACTA was born.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: What is it with Scandinavia?

If you count finding “extremism in any religion” a WMD then yes we “found it” LOL.

As for we Asatru literal translation: True to the gods… maybe we just have more perspective on things because we don’t focus on one god’s veiw-point. Keyword there was “one”. Just a thought.

Though if you had to do a skaldly (poets) perspective I’d say having a view from the mountain side rather than the valley would definitely be an advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Anglo-Saxon culture has long built it’s lifestyle around the idea of creation of a friendly society based around laws. But sadly, at times, they take the laws to an extreme and use them as a tool for economic advantage.

I remain quite glad that President Obama is in charge. I just wish he would have read the full commentary provided back in July of last year when I noted that he needed to prioritize… And put healthcare on the damned backburner. However, that was probably filtered by his staffers.

ps. I’m as white as they come…

mertz says:

thank you so much for talking about olafur arnalds. i just spent half an hour on youtube listening to his music and it’s absolutely beautiful. beautiful in that it goes through all emotions and isn’t cookie cutter standard. seems like he works out of the box. if only i knew a way to send him this comment. i emailed all my art teachers and friends about this guy so now we have something else to listen to when we’re creating. i;m listening to fok right now and it’ll help me get some art done today. thank you for posting this!

Óli Arnalds (user link) says:

Hi Matt, Jesper sent me a link to your blog, thanks a lot for mentioning me. I must mention that i was a bit ill in Norway, and therefor pretty nervous during my presentation which resulted in me maybe not quite getting my point across correctly. So just to point out – i never meant to say i actually disagreed with you, i rather meant to say that i think your presentation left out a pretty important point: That most of us are in this to inspire. Preferably as many people as possible. And most musicians aren’t necessarily willing to sell a dinner with superfans (in fact some of us find it creepy), and don’t feel right selling their personality. Most of us just want to sell music.

That being said, i must say (again – i opened my presentation with this) that i thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and these methods are great for those it works for.

@Mertz: I guess i saw your comment, thank you very much 🙂

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