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Positive signs but a long way to go, say Nordic promoters

Live music was allowed to return to Norway earlier this month, but event organisers in the country – as well as those in neighbouring Sweden, which has not seen a blanket ban on shows – say the return to business for the live industry is still some way off.

After almost two months of silence, concerts of up to 50 people were permitted to take place in Norway from 7 May, providing a one-metre space is kept between attendees, with capacity limits set to increase to 200 people by mid-June if all goes well and, possibly, to 500 by September

“It’s great to see that some concerts can take place again,” says Anders Tangen of Norwegian live music association Norske Konsertarrangører (NKA), “but to make it very clear – it’s not something that can keep our industry economically afloat.”

In a similar vein to responses from those in the Spanish music industry when reopening plans were unveiled, promoters in Norway suggest that initial restrictions are not viable for live events.

“A capacity of 50 works for private events like weddings and anniversaries, but I don’t see a concert boom returning with these restrictions,” Tonje Kaada, CEO of Norway’s Øya Festival tells IQ. “Maybe if the limit increases to 200 like they say it may from 15 June, but I think most promoters need a 500 limit before finding it financially healthy to restart their businesses.”

“It’s great to see that some concerts can take place again, but it’s not something that can keep our industry economically afloat”

Øya was among major festivals in Norway to cancel its 2020 edition following the extension of the government’s large-scale event ban to 1 September. Although having to cancel is “every festival organiser’s nightmare”, Kaada states it was helpful to be able to do so “in such controlled circumstances”, with time to discuss with other organisers and the wider industry.

“It’s been an incredibly tough time for our whole eco system, but at least we’re in the same boat and I really feel that everyone is doing what they can to support each other.”

Mark Vaughan from All Things Live Norway agrees that there is “no financial reward for anyone” putting on an event under current restrictions. However, the reopening, albeit slight, does “give people a chance to work in many different sectors of the business”, says Vaughan, adding that putting on shows, even under the restrictions, is “a positive step for everyone”.

In addition to capacity limits, the need to maintain social distancing at events provides more problems for promoters. FKP Scorpio Norway head promoter Stian Pride says the one-metre distancing guideline means it is “very difficult to make [shows] work”.

“The economic margins for venues and festivals were tight before the crisis, and this makes it even worse”

In order to facilitate easier and safer reopening, the NKA has developed guidelines for venues and organisers on how to meet regulations from the health authorities. “It’s a lot to consider and implement,” says Tangen, “but at the same time there is of course eagerness to open up and get back to come sort of normality.

“The economic margins for venues and festivals were tight before the crisis, and this makes it even worse.”

The situation in Norway is much the same as that in neighbouring Sweden which, unlike its western European counterparts, has yet to impose a full lockdown, keeping bars, restaurants and shops open and allowing events of up to 50 people.

However, the country’s live industry is facing the same issues as most others. “No concerts at all are taking place,” Edward Janson of Swedish promoter Triffid and Danger tells IQ. “We were supposed to promote 42 concerts from mid-March to late May and all of these have either been cancelled or postponed.” Janson adds that he is “more and more sceptical” as to whether shows rescheduled to autumn will be able to go ahead.

Indeed, unlike in many other countries, no end-date for restrictions or plan for resuming normal business has been given in Sweden, making it difficult for promoters to plan for the future, says Joppe Pihlgren of Swedish live music organisation Svensk Live.

“Our focus is to help our members to survive this spring and summer.”

 


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Norwegian Mood: Norway market report

Norway doesn’t have the world’s biggest population – about 5.4 million – but don’t let anyone tell you it’s small.

If you were to drive from the site of the country’s southernmost major music festival to its northernmost – from Bystranda beach in Kristiansand, home of Palmesus, to Midnattsrocken in Lakselv, well into the Arctic Circle – you’d be looking at a 25-hour, 2,120km road trip through Norway and Sweden. Ergo, you might want to think about flying.

Between those two points on the Norwegian side, in addition to 450,000 lakes, there’s a lot of music. Some agents suggest there are more shows in the capital of Oslo than in Stockholm and Copenhagen combined. Others claim Norway has more festivals than any other country per head.

“Concerts are still the most popular cultural activity among Norwegians, besides the cinema,” says Tone Østerdal, CEO of the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA). “And there are so many festivals now. We are not that many people but there are very many festivals around.”

The Norwegian concert business was worth NOK2.6billion (€270million) in 2017 – more than half of the NOK4.9bn (€510m) total value of the Norwegian music business. Norway is, of course, a major producer of music – not quite at Sweden’s level, but with plenty of recognisable names, from A-ha and Röyksopp to Sigrid, Susanne Sundfør, Nico & Vinz and Marcus & Martinus. And given its strong exchange rate and sound consumer base it is known, internationally, as a pretty lucrative spot that earns its place on a tour schedule.

“We are out on the outer edge,” says promoter Peer Osmundsvaag of All Things Live Norway. “You go to Norway for a reason, whether that be a financial one or because you have a strong fanbase here. It is not somewhere you just roll through.”

“It’s a strong and well-run live industry all over the country, and there’s a good bond”

There’s certainly money here, as everyone knows, but as well as the standard high-octane live business that fills arenas in the largest cities, Norway has a large, often volunteer-driven network of grass roots venues and small promoters, with regional music hubs tasked with supporting talent and initiative outside Oslo, and strong communication between regions.

Oslo is clearly the key Norwegian market, but other major cities – Bergen, Stavanger and Ålesund, scattered up the west coast; Trondheim in the centre; and Tromsø in the north – maintain their own highly independent scenes. No two of them are any less than five hours from each other by road, and most are much more. The geographical isolation of each city has effectively meant that each one has developed its own live identity, fuelled by hearty festivals and small venues.

“Norway is really about five countries in one, centring around the major cities,” says Osmundsvaag. “Therefore, the local festivals are very strong, because they are all so important for the local communities.”

Norway’s oil wealth also has ways of trickling down into the market. The Norwegian Cultural Fund had €98m to spend in 2018, having granted support to 2,546 out of 6,668 applications from the worlds of music, literature and other arts, the year before.

Festivals tend to attract more support than the broader live business, Østerdal suggests, but money also goes to regional talent development and new venues, and the NKA is active in knitting the industry together at all levels.

“For all of Norway, the reason we have a good live music scene is because of the NKA,” says Are Bergerud, head of Trondheim’s Tempo hub. “Everyone meets up and we all talk to each other all over the place. It’s a strong and well-run live industry all over the country, and there’s a good bond. Tone [Østerdal] is doing important work.”

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 85, or subscribe to the magazine here.


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Norway’s NKA appoints new chairman

Ivar Chelsom Vogt, head of culture at Bergen venue USF Verftet, has been appointed the new chairman of the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA).

At its most recent annual promoter conference in Stavanger, NKA (Norsk Konsertarrangører) also elected a new board, with members welcoming new additions Therese Østby Haugen, Trym Grydeland and Åsa Paaske Gulbrandsen, promoting Merete Moum Lo and Herman Ekle Lund, and reelecting Alexandra Archetti Stølen.

“The live market is growing and concert organisers are playing an increasingly central role in the music industry,” says Vogt, who also sits on the board of showcase festivals Vill Vill Vest and by:Larm. “At the same time, margins are small and many promoters are under pressure, [so] it is important that we as a sector work together to ensure a broad, diverse and viable field of organisers.

“NKA is an organisation in continuous growth and development”

“NKA is an organisation in continuous growth and development, with a membership growth of 13% so far in 2019. This is testament to NKA’s relevance, position and opportunity. There is still a lot to work on in this field, and I look forward to taking on the position.”

NKA represents some 350 promoters, festivals and other live businesses across Norway. Read IQ’s recent Norway market report, which found a country with one of the most active live music scenes in Europe, here.

Norwegian Mood: Norway market report

 


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NKA hires Nordic Live’s Nyaling Saidy Kiil

Norwegian promoters’ association NKA has appointed Nyaling Saidy Kiil, formerly of booking agency Nordic Live, as an advisor, effective 1 November.

Kiil had worked as a producer at Nordic Live since 2014, working with concerts and festivals of all sizes. She also has a degree in cultural project management, with a specialisation in music.

“I look forward to tackling new challenges in an organisation that seems very exciting to me,” she says. “Getting close to cultural experiences created for the audience is what I enjoy the most, so I am grateful and excited to start work at the NKA.”

“Nyaling has a lot to contribute to NKA”

Nyaling Saidy Kiil’s hiring comes amid other personnel changes for NKA (Norske Konsertarrangøre/Norwegian Concert Promoters, known as the Norwegian Live Music Association in English). Anders Tangen, of festivals Trondheim Calling, Vill Vill Vest and by:Larm, becomes senior advisor, while Andreas Feen Sørensen is named a communications and marketing advisor. Mariann Skjerdal, meanwhile, has been appointment administration coordinator.

On Kiil’s appointment, NKA managing director Tone Østerdal, who joined the association last year, comments: “There were many strong candidates who applied for the position, and competition was tough. But I feel confident that Nyaling has a lot to contribute to NKA, not least considering her experience from the artist side. I think she will fit in well and complement us both professionally and socially.”

NKA represents some 350 promoters, festivals and other live businesses across Norway.

 


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New MD for Norwegian promoters’ association NKA

Tone Østerdal, formerly head of culture for Norway’s Akershus county, has been named managing director of the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA).

Østerdal (pictured), who is also chairman of promoter nyMusikk, has served as a deputy member of the NKA board since 2015. She moves into her new role on 1 August.

“I’m proud and happy to get this opportunity,” she comments. “I have worked across the entire arts and cultural sector for many years, but there is no doubt that music is closest to my heart, so it’s amazing to get to work more closely with the music business in future.

“The music industry is growing, and it is being driven by the live business. Total revenue has increased most in recent years. At the same time, we know that many of NKA’s members are struggling with increased demands…

“It’s amazing to get to work more closely with the music business in future”

“I am committed to ensuring NKA will strengthen member dialogue and focus even more on influencing policy on behalf of promoters in Norway for a long time to come.”

NKA (Norske Konsertarrangøre/Norwegian Concert Promoters, known in English as the Norwegian Live Music Association) represents around 340 concert promoters across Norway.

Read IQ’s recent in-depth report on the Norwegian live market below:

Market report: Norway

 


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Market report: Norway

If money doesn’t make us happy, then how do we explain Norway, which is both the world’s happiest country and, thanks to its oil wealth, Europe’s second richest?

Maybe money isn’t such a curse after all. Or maybe Norway’s diverting live scene keeps those rich kid blues at bay. The smallest Scandinavian nation by population, with the fiddliest coastline, it houses a disproportionately deluxe live market, with all the international shows and domestic touring talent a nation of 5.2m people could reasonably expect, and a festival scene that is thoroughly embedded in its culture.

“Festivals have taken over Norwegian social life now,” says Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, CEO of Norske Konsertarrangører, the country’s live business trade body. “That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands.” Events such as Norwegian Wood, Øya, Findings, Picnic in the Park and OverOslo, which all take place in the capital, are among the prominent evidence of this, but in the summer, Norway is swarming with festivals from top to bottom – not just national ones, but regional and local ones, too, in virtually every town.

“That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands”

Likewise, Oslo is the prime destination for most international artists, but second and third cities Bergen and Trondheim have their moments too, and Norwegian music is strong and varied enough that the country’s live business could, if pushed, run on little else. Once famous solely for A-ha, Norway’s talent machine these days produces a far broader range of artists than before.

“Yes, it’s a really good time,” says Atomic Soul’s Peer Osmundsvaag. “I remember growing up thinking Norway was probably the most rubbish country in the world, with only A-ha…”

These days, artists are breaking out of Norway all over the place. Notable names include hit-making DJ Kygo, pop twins Marcus & Martinus and X Factor offshoot Astrid S; diverse singer-songwriters such as Susanne Sundfør, Maria Mena, Anna of the North and Aurora; and indie-rockers Kakkmaddafakka – part of the so-called New Bergen Wave, which follows the original wave in the 1990s that produced Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and Annie. Norwegian artists even occasionally manage to get noticed in Sweden, which would once have been unheard of.

 


Read the rest of this feature in the digital edition of IQ 73:

 


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Non-concertgoers: A minority in Norway

Live music has grown to become the most popular cultural activity in Norway, with six out of ten Norwegians seeing a concert in 2016, new data reveals.

Sixty-two per cent of Norwegians attended a gig last year, and 22% said they are “very interested” in live music, according to Statistics Norway’s latest Norsk Kulturbarometer (Norwegian Culture Barometer), which has tracked the popularity of various forms of arts, culture and entertainment in the Scandinavian nation since 1991.

Seeing concerts is now a more popular pastime than visiting sporting events, theatrical shows, museums, art galleries, libraries, ballet and opera, reveals the latest Kulturbarometer, with live music only bested if the criteria is opened up to include cinemas (72% of people).

The national proportion of concertgoers has hovered around the 60% mark for much of the 2000s, up from 48% in 1991, 55% in 1994 and 57% in 1997. It was 61% at the time of the last Kulturbarometer, in 2012. On average, Norwegians went to 2.5 concerts in 2016.

The most noticeable trend compared to 2012 is the rise in concertgoing among 45- to 66-year-olds. It was 60% four years ago, rising to 65% in 2016; also up is the figure among 25- to 44-year-olds (64%, from 61% in 2012) and 67- to 79-year-olds (51%), while it has fallen among 9–15s (55%, down from 59%) and 16–24s (64%, down from 75%).

Seeing concerts is now a more popular pastime than visiting sporting events, theatrical shows, museums, art galleries, libraries, ballet and opera

The new figures from Norway are around 20% higher than those across the Skagerrak, with 41% of Danes having seen a concert in the same year.

Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, managing director of the Norwegian Concert Promoters’ Association (NKA), says the figures “correspond well with our experiences”.

“Over the last ten years we have doubled our membership, from 150 to 300 concert promoters,” he comments. “The concert business has become much more professional since the 1990s.”

Valum highlights the growth in festivals as contributing to the the rise in concertgoers, especially older fans. “There has been an explosion in the number of festivals since the 2000s,” he says. “This means a wider audience are exposed to live music and continue to seek out concerts throughout the year.”

The value of the Norwegian live music business grew to US$440 million, a four-year high, in 2015, the most recently available data – although the weak krone remains a challenge for the festival market.

 


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NKA disappointed over policing costs

The Norwegian live industry has expressed disappointment in the lack of funds earmarked for concert security in the country’s latest budget.

The 2017 national budget, Norway’s last before next year’s general election, promises 2.5 million krone (kr) – roughly US$310,000 – towards policing costs for sporting events for young people but makes no similar fund available for concert promoters.

Responding to the budget, the Norwegian Live Music Association (Norske Konsertarrangøre, NKA) says the budget “confirms KUD [the Ministry of Culture] believes police costs should be a state affair, not a burden for concert promoters”, but questions why it makes no mention of cultural events, “which affect large groups of the population”, and asks “negotiating parties in the budget debate for this reimbursement system to be expanded to also include cultural events for children and youth”.

“Our festival members have expenses of 10–15m krone to cover extraordinary police attendance during their events. These costs are a major burden for festivals”

NKA’s managing director, Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, says: “Our festival members have expenses of 10–15m krone to cover extraordinary police attendance during their events. These costs are a major burden for festivals, and we see big differences between the police districts in the amount of overtime costs festivals are required to cover.”

However, he does note as “encouraging” that police have been allocated an extra 300m krone in the budget. “We hope this will lead to police [seeing] the presence of cultural events as a natural part of their operations,” says Valum (pictured), “and not leave promoters covering the costs.”

 


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