This year by:Larm celebrated its ten-year anniversary by breaking the basic tenet of its constitution, viz. that it would always take place outside Oslo. From the start the idea was to put focus on the local scenes in Norway’s regional cities and boost both regional and national musical talent by concentrating a large number of bands, artists, journalists and industry people in one small place. The notion of Norwegian local culture and not least nature, has for ten years been one of the chief ingredients in making by:Larm a special experience for foreign participants. And indeed, compared to its modest beginnings by:Larm soon became a favourite event for many seasoned international journalists. The “by:Larm experience” was always special, and new Norwegian music was of the same exiting flare. Thus the principle of taking a big musical happening to various smaller cities worked splendidly for a long while.
But by:Larm grew, and this year’s choice of Oslo as host city seemed inevitable, at least as an experiment. The point was that the festival had been losing money for several years, and even though the events have been consistently successful from an artistic point of view, the organisation behind it was beginning to see the writing on the wall: Only Oslo really had the infrastructure to accommodate such a major in-city musical happening.
And this year’s festival proved the hypothesis right: In terms of organisation it was the most successful by:Larm so far, with concerts on schedule, excellent sound, short lines, enough hotel rooms and easy, efficient logistics. And most important of all, for the first time the numbers were not red. In fact the festival made a decent 1.8 million profit. And that alone is reason enough to make the decision that is now final: by:Larm will be hosted by Oslo for the next three years.
Another decisive factor is that the Oslo city council has pledged financial support to the festival. The politicians view by:Larm as an integral part of a much bigger vision of making Oslo into a musical capital of the Scandinavia. Many important things are happening in this respect, and resources are being poured in across the spectrum of genres. by:Larm is a natural part of this bigger push.
And for the festival and its organisers this pledge of financial support secures one thing that the festival has always been in want of, namely predictability. With sound financial backing, and this year’s success as a blueprint, by:Larm may now focus entirely on the music itself, and on furthering the image the festival has acquired, as Scandinavia’s most important festival/convention.
Some express grief over the decision and it is of course true that the basic idea behind the whole endeavour is now different. But with this year’s success; artistically, in terms of foreign response, and of course financially, the new by:Larm concept is probably a better and more sustainable thing than the old one ever was.
And to remedy the downsides of settling down in Oslo there is a plan in place to sustain regional focus: A number of stages designated to specific Norwegian cities will become part of the future festival lay-out. This ensures that these cities’ vibe and their respective regions’ musical scenes may be showcased. sd
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