The Art of Sustainability in National Music industries

Saxophone player and chairman of the Norwegian Society of Composers and Lyricists, Bendik Hofset examines the Art of Sustainability in National Music industries.

Bendik Hofseth 2 2002

Below you can find Hofset’s key notes to his Bergen lecture on The Art of Sustainability in National Music industries:

Is there such a thing as Norwegian music
- and can it be described?

The Image of a Nation
It is difficult to see ourselves from without, nations are myopic phenomena
The assumption is that there is such a thing as ”national” identity, a soul, a sentiment
It is easier to define the characteristics of other cultures than one’s own


  • Knowledge of the Norwegian image from other areas
  • More than 200 informers from the music industry (vendors, journalists, musicians and promoters) in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, London, New York and Tokyo
  • Group sessions and in-depth interviews with key industry people during By:larm 2004
  • Several workshops and conferences on the subject with creators, artists, politicians, academics and the industry
  • Resource group working under and after By:Larm

  • The inward-out perspective collapsed
  • The resource group therefore chose an outward-in perspective
  • Easier to distinguish the Norwegian characteristics from abroad
The resource group sorted, structured and filtered the information

How does Norway look from abroad?
  • Are we unique in any way?
  • Are Norwegian characteristics distinguishable?
  • Is there a certain Norwegian aestheticism?
  • Can Norwegian music be described?
  • Does Norwegian music carry connotations useful to its national music industry

Initial findings
  • Still a significant part of the informers know little, but interest is increasing
  • Norwegian music carry the most significant associations of Scandinavian music
  • Not for everyone, typically niche music
  • Norwegian music seems more diversified and has made it’s mark in several genres: jazz, electronica, black metal, hard rock
  • The informers recognize some of the same qualities and features in our music, regardless of genre

  • High quality
  • Genuine
  • Niche related
  • Melodic
  • Breaking new ground, not miming others
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Exciting

The collapse of the inside-out:
Norwegian creators and artists do not feel that they are part of any Norwegian movement
It is not important to them to be associated with anything Norwegian
They do not even think that they immanently express Norwegian values or qualities
However, quite a number of them feel that they are ambassadors for a regional culture

US Foreign Sales 2000/2001 (in billions of dollars)
Core Copyright industries85,4688,97
Chemicals and allied products74,4374,68
Motor vehicles and parts59,8156,32
Aircrafts and parts51,5255,31
Agricultural sector50,9053,00
Source: SIWEK report 2002

Core Copyright Industries US 2001
  • + Music included in other sectors
  • + Publishing $ 3 Bill
  • + Concerts $ ??
  • + Merchandise
  • = Music Total: 20-25 bill

Foreign sales and exports (in billions of dollars)

Estimated average annual real growth rate

Core copyright industries7.07.09.4
Remainder of US economy3.03.23.0

Political Measures:

Argue and collaborate with the EU, UNESCO, WIPO, CISAC and others in order to enhance cultural diversity
Ensure equal access to markets (WTO , competition authorities)
Openness towards new, updated “national” symbols, a changing entourage of works and artists. Awareness about this amongst decision makers will feed-back and generate self-confidence within the creative communities
Explore new technologies
Localize the weak parts of the chain in the music industry and take measures to strengthen these together with the music industry
Culture schools and community centers to provide good education at an early stage, (cultural rucksack)

Documentation and monitoring:
Seek accordance in definition of “local” repertoire
Provide continuous updated surveys to the local music industry and the public regarding the usage of local repertoire
Provide continuous updated surveys to the local music industry as regards the condition of the local music industry and it’s artists/creators
Enforce political pressure and positively encourage broadcasters in order to make them play more local music (especially public broadcasters)

Civil Sector:
Establish and maintain professional organizations that have clearly defined scopes and that have learned to work together
Collaborate with targeted countries on exchange of repertoire and information in order to broaden understanding and to reach other markets
Solidarity work, stay open to the international impulses
Collaborate with and encourage media to be open to and appreciate the art of today
By: Larm: Debutants, conferences and education for the music industry

Artists and creators:

They do their thing as individuals!
They claim to be understood on their own terms
They maintain high quality in productions and musicianship
They are not afraid of niche products and niche markets. Main Street is crowded and it’s expensive getting equal access
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