(WHY) DO DANISH LABELS ONLY RELEASE DANISH MUSIC?
This text was written to coincide with the internationally oriented Spot Festival in Aarhus, Denmark, in May of 2011. It was sent out to festival participants from the media and the music business. As a sort of moment of reflection. We figured we'll put the text on the SOPA website as well.
(Why) Do Danish labels only release Danish music?
In a time where Denmark is reversing evolution and closing its borders one question lingers: Is this self-sufficiency also mirrored on the Danish music scene? Sure, we love to go abroad. But what do we really bring back home with us?
Do Danish labels only release Danish music? A quick answer would be yes, but it would also be a harsh generalisation. Of course it’s not as simple. But there is some truth to it.
Off-the-cuff, besides my own label, I can think of a small handful of Danish labels who are working with non-Danish artists in numbers you actually notice - these being labels such as Play/Rec, Mastermind Records, Bad Afro Records and Crunchy Frog.
But only releasing Danish music does makes sense. It’s easy to work with Danish bands when you’re a Danish label. Both label and artists probably all live in the same city. And on hometurf even the smallest bands start out with a fanbase of friends and relatives who can buy the music and attend the first string of gigs. It really is easier.
But does this mean that we, the Danes, are self-contained in our little kingdom with state funding for the arts and so forth? Do we – despite our global outlook – shut ourselves off from real larger scale global collaboration on the Danish music scene?
I do not have the answer. But it might be: maybe.
The thought has started to take root as I prepare the coming LP-release on my label Sound Of Perpetual Astonishment (SOPA). The band is Sister Chain & Brother John – a British/Israeli duo living in and working out of Berlin. It occured to me when looking back that half of the releases on SOPA have been with non-Danish artists. Including compilations with bands from more than 10 different countries on a single album.
I know why SOPA has that profile. It wasn’t so much a conscious choice at first. I like to travel and most of all experience new music in whatever form it may take. And then share those experiences with others. It just seems natural - no matter what geographic origin the music might have.
Looking around the musical landscape of Denmark, most of the popular Danish acts today are released by Danish labels who release other Danish artists. There are of course more labels out there than the ones mentioned earlier, but Danish labels with lots of international artists attached seem like a rare sight. Why? I was a bit surprised when I started thinking about this.
Where is the Danes' "great global outlook" reflected in all this creative musical activity? We say we’re globalminded, but when it comes down to it: Do we REALLY send out a wholehearted invitation? Just sending your band on tour abroad doesn’t count. We don’t seem to be balancing the scales. Do we do enough? Does everyone even want to do it?
I guess you could argue that why would an international act want to be released in little Denmark? Why not? It does happen. When it comes to music and the flourishing of online distribution of it, borders should no longer matter. The market is global.
Am I too harsh? I don’t mean to. These words should not be seen as an accusation of anyone. It’s merely a thought I wanted to plant among you all in the hope to inspire a moment of reflection about our collective global outlook - even though I am probably stepping on a few toes doing it.
The Danish music scene IS thriving. Especially the independent parts of it. More and more bands go abroad. My hope is that all this travelling will create many new friendships globally - which will in turn be reflected on the artist rosters on Danish record labels.
I know reality is of course has more nuanced than the headline above. But with all this talk about how we can get music OUT of Denmark... how about also talking a bit more about the music we can get INTO Denmark - through the Danish record labels?
Or should we stop talking about countries like this? Maybe that is a bit too soon? But who needs borders when we got our common language in music?
Lars Kjaer Dideriksen
Sound Of Perpetual Astonishment (SOPA)
What/who is SOPA?
Sound Of Perpetual Astonishment (SOPA) was founded in 2006 and is an Aarhus-based label with a diverse musical profile. In the last 5 years the label has put out a diverse selection of releases - from lo-fi punkpop and drone-noise to singer-songwriter and harmonic electronic music. From such artists as Nils Gröndahl (’Under Byen’ / Denmark), Marzipan Marzipan (Italy/Germany), Agata & Me (Denmark/Sicily/Bosnia), 9 (Italy/Germany), Girls Love Rallie (Denmark) and Delay Lama (Denmark). Two compilations have featured artists from Canada, USA, France, Holland, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan and more. A string of concert events have over the years been organized around Denmark as well as in Berlin - and the artists play in many other countries.
British/Israeli duo Sister Chain & Brother John will release their second LP ”The Androdyne Show” on SOPA this fall.