Nov 29, 2017 Christine Osazuwa
When Stu Bergen, CEO, International and Global Commercial Services at Warner Music Group shared the Slush Music stage with Kalle, CEO and Co-Founder of Slush Music “who’s in charge?” was not nearly as important as “how can we help each other?” “I think it’s more of a partnership,” Stu says. “We are in a perpetual state of evolution to meet our artists’ needs.”
As the music industry has evolved, the Nordic countries have been central to that evolution with companies like Spotify leading the way. A rallying cry for the music industry as it recovered from its late 2000s decline was “What if the world were more like Sweden?” “It was certainly a position beacon,” Stu added that “it prepared us for what would happen in every industry.”
Later in the day, a panel about the with Nordic Music Tech featured Grace McCallum, Co-Founder of STHLM Music City, Sasu Paakkunainen, Co-founder and Content Manager of Slush Music and Jonas Vebner, Head of Central European Office at Music Norway. The Nordic Music Tech initiative aims to bring music and tech together in the Nordics. “The communities are already there, it’s just about connecting them,” Grace said. “To combine our forces to get the most out of what we do well in the Nordics, which is collaboration and innovation.”
That level of camaraderie is apparent all over Slush Music. Even as a representative for one of the largest labels in the world, Stu took the time on stage to acknowledge independent artist, Chance the Rapper. “When he won his Grammy,” Stu said, “He was careful to acknowledge that he didn’t do it alone. He just did it with a different sort of team.” This is how the power in music industry spreads–through collaboration, humility, and creativity.
Humility is key. Stu quoted words of advice from his colleague Niko Nordström with regards to hiring: “1. No assholes allowed and 2. Hire for attitude and teach skills.” He later went on to warn us “I would caution us not to get drunk off of two years of growth.” The industry has a way to go with full saturation. “Not every market and every genre have benefited equally from streaming… Three of the top 5 markets are still physical. Classical and country haven’t made the jump to streaming.” And though, there has been plenty of talks about the Nordics, it’s important not to overlook other regions. Stu quotes his colleague Iñigo Zabala who said, “To not believe in emerging markets is equivalent to not believe in the future of the world.” It’s a bold statement that Warner Music has taken to heart. They invested in China when they were ranked 23rd in the world in music consumption. “This year, they’ll likely be number 9,” Stu adds.
When asked by Kalle “Is there something bigger to come?” Stu shifted to experiences. “It’s augmented reality and virtual reality,” he said. “The canvas for artists is bigger–whether it’s audio or video. We’re starting to invest in non-audio.” The three Nordic Music Tech companies showcased on the Slush Music stage all focus on experiences: Stagecast, a Stockholm based company focused on enhancing live events, Requestify, a Norwegian company that makes it possible to request songs in social events and Singa, a Finnish based karaoke product.
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