The biggest Scandinavian music convention welcomed more than 450 international delegates, doubling its figure from last year. Returning visitor, Hannes Tschürtz, CEO of Austrian booking agency Ink Music co-organised a joint showcase with Norwegian label Spoon Train featuring acts like Einar Stray and The Little Hands of Asphalt. When asked why he returns to By:Larm every year, he observed: “There are many reasons to come here. We work with lots of Scandinavian artists. We discovered Einar Stray, whom we represent in Germany and Austria, here last year. By:Larm is great because everyone is in one place and you constantly bump into people you know and others you don’t know yet, so it’s pretty cool, you get to know new people and talk to the ones you already work with.”
One of By:Larm’s highlights is the newly established Nordic Music Prize. The sophomore edition of the award ceremony was scaled-down due to the absence of the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon Magnus who handed over the prize last year. The prize surprisingly went to Swedish/Croatian jazz musician Goran Kajfes for his album XY!, beating the likes of Björk, Lykke Li and Ane Brun. Most delegates I spoke with had never heard of Kajfes before. The jury, comprised of music industry pundits – including the manager of Pulp and the owner of Domino Records – stated: “a very distinctive voice unexpectedly united the jury, everybody instantly recognised the love that has gone into the playing and, also, the packaging. It’s an ambitious and warm fusion of sonic elements, from jazz with both African and eastern influences to electronica. This double album really does something that is quite rare: it communicates the pure joy of music.”
During another award ceremony local artist Bernhoft was given a 130,000 € grant by the Norwegian oil company Statoil. However, the talk of the conference was the departure of Synne Overland Knudsen from the highly promising pop sensation Team Me who objected to her band’s nomination for the same prize on political grounds. In her statement Knudsen summarised: “At this year's nomination me and my band, Team Me, disagreed about the political aspects of the scholarship that finally made me pull out. During By:Larm festival I will no longer be in Team Me.”
Some of this year’s seminar highlights were: “Meet the Music Supervisors, and get your music heard!”,“Streaming session 1: Sweet streams are made of these: the business of streaming music” and “The rise of the concert industry; a story about ticketing.” By:Larm press officer Malin Kulseth explains: “In 2011 we focused a lot on synch and publishing and continued that this year but we also added a focus on streaming and the live business. We try to focus on what is most relevant for industry people.”
Furthermore, interesting points were made byBritish writer Simon Reynolds who spoke about his book “Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past, Rip It Up and Start Again” and US copyright specialist Robert Levine who presented his recent publication: “Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.”
Among the new elements introduced this year at By:Larm was an increasing presence of acts hailing from other Nordic countries, while the number of Norwegian acts decreased from 153 in 2011 to 60 in 2012. Malin Kulseth explained: “We started working on making By:Larm a Nordic showcase three years ago and ever since we’ve been booking more and more Nordic acts. We had a goal to make it 50/50 Norwegian/Nordic. We almost got there, now we stand at 60/40 Norwegian/Nordic due to budget limitations. But the thought is to both make Nordic acts see what they can achieve by playing here as well as getting more Nordic music industry professionals to come over.”One of these professionals is Kamilla Ingibergsdóttir from Iceland who is responsible for marketing and press at Iceland Airwaves Festival. Ingibergsdóttir observed:“By:Larm is one of the premier Nordic showcases. It’s good to come out here and check out fresh talent. By:Larm has got a healthy mix of everything and they organise one of the best speed meetings in Scandinavia. So it’s definitely a good place to meet other businesses. We have already seen acts here that we will book at Iceland Airwaves…”
But the road to a successful festival hasn't been without its complications. In early autumn 2011 it was announced that the City of Oslo would completely pull the plug on their funding due to “missed deadline and application requirements” on the side of the festival. The organisers, outraged at the unfounded allegations, considered moving the event to a different location - with Bergen and Stockholm among the mooted places. In the end the statement was rectified. Malin Kulseth, by:Larm press representative, commented: “There wasn’t really an official explanation. But they apologised and have corrected a lot of the false accusations. Everything they said about the accounting was wrong. For a while we thought of going to Stockholm because we were so pissed off! But we didn’t seriously consider it, because we want to stay in Oslo. We proved that this was wrong and in the end we got 1 Million NOK (133,000 €) from the City of Oslo. This saved us basically! The situation now looks really good. We sold all the tickets that we expected to sell.”
When asked what the future holds for by:Larm Kulseth concedes: “All the Nordic countries are kind of small, but together they have something. Clearly we have a lot in common, both musically and artistically. It’s a great way for international music people to come and see what’s going on in the Nordic countries in one place. Our strategy is to become even more Nordic and it’s exciting to see how well that goes. There are no specific plans for the future yet. But for us the biggest challenge is the Oslo funding.”
•Scarlet Chives (DK): Brilliant Cocteau Twins-, Kate Bush-influenced indie pop.
•Maribel (NO): The Oslo ensemble showcase a well-crafted shoegaze/noisepop blend.
•Masquer (SE): Much-promising melodic post-punk duo with female vocals.
•GusGus (IS): Techno euphoria from Iceland.
•Siinai (FIN): Epic noise and endless feedback from prime Finnish kraut-rockers.
•Reptile Youth (DK): Reptile Youth have in their ranks the most energetic frontman in Scandinavia.
•The Megaphonic Thrift (NO): With a flawless and very ambitious second album in their arsenal Norwegian noise-masters The Megaphonic Thrift are here to stay.
Words and photos by Vasilis Panagiotopoulos