Global trends point downwards as major international record companies report losses in sales for the fifth year in a row. Norway however, refuses to follow international trends with a market that’s increasing month by month. The second half of 2002 has boosted the market and the year as a whole looks set to equal the record year of 1998. Some trends can be singled out as domestic characteristics: sales of Norwegian artists records have finally picked up, sales of singles have increased, sales of compilations are dramatically down, Norwegian export is increasing and much of the market’s growth is generated by smaller independent record companies.
Throughout the 90s and into the new millennium, sales of Norwegian records plummeted. Some periods left the Norwegian artists with as little as an 11% stake of the market, placing Norway as one of Europe’s least protectionist record markets. Compare October and November 2002 to 2001 and one will find that sales of records released Norwegian artists are up a whopping 30%! Accumulated sales of Norwegian releases for 2002 indicate a 17 percent rise. The year’s first half indicated a 4% decrease, but this has been heavily outweighed by the following six months. Still, the year’s most lucrative month, December, is upon us and initial sales reports indicate an end to the fiscal year that can rival the highlight of 1998. Accumulated total sales so far amounts to 11% in volume.
Sales of international artists are also on the increase - price-dumping on records from some of the biggest international artists is cited as one reason for this growth.
Two additional factors contribute to the transformation of the market. Over the last four years singles sales have decreased steadily, and digital downloading has been singled out as the culprit to blame for this loss in sales. The October and November figures from the Association of Norwegian Record Distributors clearly show a marked increase in sales of singles. Record companies have shifted focus from CD-maxis to two-track singles, and this approach has paid off. Says Universal Music’s Head of Marketing to the music industry publication FaroJournalen: We elected to focus on the two-track format and in retrospect this has proven to be a correct choice. The younger market purchase considerable amounts of singles, and a good single market is vital for album sales.
In contrast to the singles boom, sales of compilation CDs have plummeted. In 2000 compilation sales amounted to NOK 166 million while the 2002 figures looks set to barely reach NOK 100 mill. So far Norwegian record companies have shifted compilation CDs worth 75 million Norwegian Kroner in 2002, and if the sales figures for November and December follow the 2001 trends the industry is likely to see a turnover of 107 mill.
Internationally, record companies are struggling with a market affected with the global economic slowdown. In contrast, the Norwegian market is seeing its biggest growth in years. Those who benefit the most from this positive development is not the market’s biggest players – to a large extent it’s the smaller independent Norwegian record companies and not the large international corporations that see increasing sales figures. The Norwegian indies have strengthened their position and are now enjoying a strong 22,3% stake of the market and an increased accumulated turnover amounting to NOK 39,2 million. This is a continuation of a trend that began in 2000 when the smaller companies held 16,1 percent of the market. Universal is the undisputed leader of the market with its 26,2% share. The independent Norwegian labels follow with their 22,3%, and on the third and fourth we find EMI and Sony with 18,3% and 15,4% respectively.
In addition to solid national sales, Norwegian artists continue to earn more abroad. Norway can boast one of the worlds fastest rising royalty-generated income levels with an average 42% annual growth over the last three years. Artists such as A-ha, Lene Marlin, Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience, Sondre Lerche and Madrugada have contributed to a solid increase in income based on radio play, record sales and performances. Still, the annual Norwegian turnover of NOK 16 million is dwarfed by the Swedish figures: 220 million kroner are derived from Swedish artists international activities.
Will these trends continue into 2003? With strong names and long awaited releases coming up, next year could be another lucrative year for the Norwegian music industry. The Norwegian economy has been less affected by the global economic slowdown and the level of consumption is still high. Recent cut in interest rates can also affect the public’s willingness to dish out cash for 2003’s new releases.
A quick look at the upcoming Norwegian releases for 2003 reveal several long awaited releases from artists with solid previous success. Some examples:
A-ha is set to return with both a new studio album and a live recording. The follow up to their successful Lifelines album is expected spring 2003.
One of Norway’s biggest export successes over the last four years is Lene Marlin. Her Playing My Game album released in 1998 sold millions and featured hits that were playlisted all over Europe. Her second album has been delayed by years, but rumours have it that it will be released spring 2003.
Platinum selling Briskeby will also return to the spotlight in 2003. Their debut album released in 2000 in Norway went platinum, but the band has yet to achieve international success – will 2003 be their year?
Morten Abel is a massive success on the Norwegian scene. His last two solo-albums went platinum and the accompanying singles were playlisted for months. Abel is another artist that still hasn’t matched international success with his national success.
Silje Nergaard has been very successful with her jazz-derived songwriting. Gold-selling jazz albums are not an everyday occurrence, and Silje is special in this respect. Attention abroad is increasing, and with a successful Asian completed it will be exciting to follow the international impact of Nergaard’s 2003 album.
Sondre Lerche’s mature debut Faces down has been successful both in Norway and abroad. With great reviews and successful tours in Europe, Lerche is now focussing on USA. His album has been praised by among others Rolling Stone and Village Voice in addition to numerous radio stations. He is in the studio these days, and a new album will come next year.
Big Bang have released three critically acclaimed albums in Norway, and are well established here with a loyal following. 2003 will see a new album out and it is rumoured that several major US record companies are vying for the band’s signatures.
Kings of Convenience are having a break following the success of their 2001 album. One of the two kings Erlend Øye is not resting on his laurels though. The Berlin-residing songwriter has been globetrotting the last year, collaborating with a collective of electronica producers around the globe. His 2003 album will include contributions from such acclaimed producers as Cornelius, Schneider TM and Prefuse 73. With a strong grasp of the zeitgeist, Øye’s album could be one of next years most exiting ones.
The list of upcoming Norwegian releases that deserve mentioning is too long to be featured here. Suffice to say that Bel Canto, Turbonegro, Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band, Amulet, Noora, Gluecifer, Euroboys, Askil Holm, Sternklang, Diaz, Tweeterfriendly Music, Maria Mena, Surferosa, Place of Pleasure, Number Seven Deli and Bertine Zetlitz are just a few examples of strong names with upcoming releases that hold lots of anticipation.
Morten Abel, Artist
Silje Nergaard, Artist