From the depths of ambition, Den Sorte Skole send out a monstrous cry for plurality in music
By Jonas Sølberg
It’s not us who have set all this in motion. It’s Den Sorte Skole. It has a life and ambition of its own.
A noisy and gritty sound cuts through the air as I leave the freight elevator and enter the fifth floor of an old warehouse. In front of a big electronic setup, Martin Højland is sitting by a big screen filled with chopped samples.
Together with Simon Dokkedal, Martin Højland is part of the electronic duo Den Sorte Skole – The Black School in Danish. When I meet Højland, the two artists are only days away from one of their biggest and most ambitious concerts ever, filling up the massive Orange Stage at Roskilde Festival.
They have been at the festival five times before and played fully packed concerts each time. Their parties at the Roskilde Festival’s skate venue back in 2006 and 2008 – when they were more of a turntablist and hip-hop inspired electronic act – undoubtedly felt like big street parties filled with drunk, happy, stoned, pushing, dancing kids grooving and singing along. The concert in 2008 still gets tossed around between my more nostalgic friends.
Højland and his music partner Simon Dokkedal are in a different place now. No longer as fascinated by hiphop, their music has grown more complex. Today it is not as much songs they create as it is organic, pulsating and psychedelic compositions built around beats and samples from the entire world of music. From folk and indian music to club and urban music. Melancholic, sad and happy instruments and voices spanning generations, language, religion, genres and all those other worn out identity markers. Up until now, the duo’s most complex sound embroidery has been their fourth studio album ‘Indians & Cowboys’ from 2015 where they added a monstrous and almost grotesque face to their sound, a dark style they have honed and dug into deeper ever since.
Ambition without restraint
A big studio window is looking out on a green and quiet Danish neighbourhood with red brick villas. A pretty and sweet tasting slice of Danish neatness. Inside the studio, the disorderly noise has been replaced with beautiful choirs singing in an infinite ambient space. A couple of floating seconds on a busy day.
They are finally starting to finish the music for the concert, Højland says before excusing himself as he moves back to the computer putting it to work. No time to rest. With the music for the concert done, the week is filled with long production rehearsals: 12-hour-days where every little detail will be tested and rehearsed for the 1 hour and 40-minute show. The entire show will include almost a hundred people, counting the 20-person Icelandic choir Staka, expansive visuals and lighting, ten dancers and 9 invited guest artists – among them the Syrian dabke-gone-techno artist Omar Souleyman and the Kurd singer and megastar Aynur Doğan who has for more than ten years been a thorn in the eyes of the nationalist Turkish government. The only Dane among the nine guests is SØS Gunver Ryberg, an industrial techno artist not yet known by many Danes.
Ambition. That’s what is dripping from the ceiling in the studio down onto the cables, racks and computers competing for space around Højland. On the wall is a big production plan which acts as a constant reminder of the coming week’s intense rehearsals. Ambition is also what is carving into Martin’s temples. From designing the dancers suits to giving their view on how the lighting and visuals would best live and breath with the music Højland and Dokkedal’s visions are seeping into every artistic decision. >>It’s not us who have set all this in motion. It’s Den Sorte Skole. It has a life and ambition of its own. We have already had more than 10 meetings with the visual crew at this point. That’s 40 hours talking about visuals and lighting. But we want to be part of everything.<<
Ambition is also what is forcing his head into his hands in an unconscious gesture every ten minutes. “I’m glad I have my two sons at home. They provide a bit of normalcy in a crazy routine these days. But it’s always like this when we’re nearing a deadline on our big projects with classical orchestras or some other big setup.”
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking. It’s within this last month and a half we have found the path and vision for the entire show. That has calmed us both a bit. Before that, everything was still very much up in the air. We’ve been working full time on this for a half year so I’m starting to feel pretty squeezed.”
Looking at the production plan all big and precise stretching a couple meters with names, places and times weaving in and out of each other, you understand why Martin is a bit squeezed. Connecting all these dots is not far from weaving a Persian carpet. Every little, new stitch depends on the prior one. It’s also the way they create their music. Slowly weaving and connecting. The duo’s most complex broidery yet was Indians & Cowboys from 2015 building on the sound they started with their third album ‘Lektion III’. The show on Orange Stage will build further on the legacy of those albums.
Like creating a new album
“This whole process has been like creating a new album. 70 percent of the samples in the concert are new material so we’ve sort of started over,” Højland says. “We’ve always had this rule that we didn’t use any samples released after we were born. This gave us what some have called a slightly dated and organic 70’s sound. Around the time of the Danish SPOT Festival in 2016, we had created this really heavy and rough set, that we ended up enjoying a lot and we began digging deeper into that feeling.”
Like a 30-story techno monster, they ploughed through their audiences at that concert and trampled on anything reminiscent of the pop, soul and RnB that seemingly was the sound of “now” at SPOT in 2016. Experiencing that concert, I was blown away by the brutal heaviness and total bombardment of the senses. I was impressed by their willingness to risk alienating their fans while exploring deep into the gritty and dirty niches of underground club music. Since then they have used a lot of time digging into contemporary music instead of only older vinyl releases. Inspiration from new and progressive electronic artists like Roly Porter, Arca and Paul Jebanasam has helped stretch their sound into the rough and splintered. Into a post-industrial and dark ambient landscape.
“We have decided to create a concert without compromise which is pretty nerve-wracking. It’s going to be the ultimate trip and a grotesque, dark journey.” Martin says. “It could end up not going our way if we’re just a bit unlucky: Rain pouring down, technical issues or any misstep somewhere in the production. It could be too deep and too different,” he contemplates and tells me that he already has read all the bad reviews in his mind: ‘Confused circus on Orange Stage’, or something in that direction,” he recites smiling a little. “In the end, we have to put our faith in the contract we have with our fans. They know we are not only a groovy duo and have given us room and space to evolve – a thing we could never stop doing anyway – and in exchange, they can also trust us to approach them in our music. Good music is about exploring while also being able to connect. That’s what we have always strived to do. And we are hoping the sum of the parts in our concert will suit a late night slot and the liquid state people are in after three days of festival.”
Let the music speak for you
The space in front of Orange Stage can fit more than 60.000 people. It is a big canvas they are filling out – and they know it. It is also part of the reason for those big ambitions.
I ask Højland if they have talked about using the stage for a political statement. They have been known to utter their critique of unjust power. The symbolism in the album title ‘Indians & Cowboys’ points to their willingness to critique and discuss colonialism.
“But the interesting thing isn’t what we have to say about the refugee crisis in interviews. What matters is what our music says and conveys. We are inherently political in our music. That’s why we have chosen an international and alternative guest lineup. It’s our crème de la crème picks. Omar Souleyman is not joining because there’s war in Syria. He’s here because his music should definitely be heard and the same goes for the rest of the artists.
“There’s enough unambitious music in Denmark as it is. We are investing all of our ambition in creating a manifestation of musical openness and plurality, that reflects the world.”
A show like this takes a toll on artists, and especially artists working outside the mainstream. It is a huge opportunity, but also a big expenditure. Martin explains how the sponsorship they have received from Phonofile and The Orchard have made some aspects of the show possible that otherwise would have needed to be cut from the show. “The money secured the project at a critical time. We have been very ambitious about everything, but a show like this costs a lot of money, so the sponsorship made it possible for us to focus on the show, rather than worrying about the financial aspects.” “We can identify with Phonofile’s values and business model – creating a system that gives us the opportunity to control our own releases and the knowledge of our own fans.”
Phonofile US LLC establishing US office
Phonofile is proud to present its first firm step in establishing an US office.
We have contracted the highly experienced Greg Vegas who will be working as Label Manager of the new company Phonofile US LLC. Greg will help Phonofile’s labels plan their US approaches and sales of of their catalogue in the USA.
Greg is experienced from years of work within music labels, music distribution, artist development, onboarding Nordic artists into the USA, and most lately working as A&R for PIAS in NYC.
“The successful opening of a London office last year, and now the NYC office, are both milestones and important steps for the continuous development of Phonofile’s reach. Ultimately, steps like this will be changing the way our rights owners can continue to control their rights when taking their music out to the world.”, says Erik Brataas, CEO of Phonofile AS
Phonofile US LLC is a company fully owned by Phonofile AS.
Phonofile and Gravitation works together with The Tallest Man On Earth.
Phonofile has signed a deal with Swedish label Gravitation that handles Kristian Matsson also known as The Tallest Man On Earth. The new single “Time Of The Blue” is out worldwide now!
Torny Gottberg from Phonofile: “We really look forward in working with Niclas at Gravitation with The Tallest Man On Earth who is an artist i have been working with more or less since the start in 2006 during my many years working with physical distribution. Now we will continue even further with future digital releases”.
Phonofile is expanding staff and services, and we are happy to welcome Johan Husvik as music supervisor to the Phonofile team. Johan will be in charge of our new service Phonofile Sync, a non-exclusive service launching today. With Phonofile Sync, we will focus on music placement in professional audio-visual productions, bridging the gap between the great independent music scene we represent and the professional music user.
A sync is when you license a recording to be synchronized with moving pictures, so that the new product created is a stand-alone copyrighted product consisting of several copyrights. Typically, this can include feature films, TV-productions, games, advertisements etc.
Phonofile Sync will actively work with sync placements in constant dialogue with potential clients. Phonofile will be a creative part of the process together with both the film companies as well as the artists and labels, to maximise the opportunities that can be created by a sync.
Phonofile will handle all clearance and licensing for each sync on a case by case basis and make sure that correct value is attached and ensuring that all contracts are in order. Labels and artists will always be able to approve a sync before a license is issued. Phonofile will also clear the publishing rights to maximise the possibilities for a master usage.
The service will be an integrated part of Phonofile’s operations. Labels can choose to opt in to the agreement basically saying that Phonofile is allowed to pitch music to potential clients. There will be no initial costs to participate, Phonofile will as always only charge labels when we create real value through a success fee once an agreement is accepted by all parties involved.
Johan Husvik was the first professional Music Supervisor in Norway, with over 13 years of experience from the Film industry, 10 of them as a Music Supervisor.
Johan has contributed his work to 22 feature films and hundreds of commercials, included the 2008 Norwegian Oscar candidate Max Manus, which also is one of the most selling Norwegian feature films of all time. He also put his musical signature on the Emmy nominated TV-Series Norwegian Cozy.
Johan is probably best known for his achievement on the feature film Beatles, where he was the first Music Supervisor in the world to sync several original recordings by The Beatles in a feature film.
In 2014, Johan also had a weekly radio show on NRK P13 (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) with focus on great music in films. Full list of films can be found on IMDB.
Phonofile AS and finetunes GmbH join forces to form independent distribution powerhouse
Historic merger in independent music distribution
Phonofile AS and finetunes GmbH are joining forces in one of the most significant mergers in the history of the independent digital distribution market.
Scandinavia-based Phonofile and Germany-based finetunes, two of the most experienced digital distributors, will join forces under the collective roof of SendR SE, a holding company predominantly owned by finetunes founders Henning Thieß and Oke Göttlich, and from now including Phonofile shareholders such as FONO (Norwegian independent record labels‘ association) and NOPA (Norwegian association for music composers and lyricists). Existing Phonofile shareholders will continue as shareholders in SendR while FONO and Phonofile Executive Erik Brataas will also be represented on the board of SendR.
Under the new construct, Phonofile and finetunes will keep their respective independent identities, and carry on with business as usual and with their existing teams. The companies will however collaborate actively and benefit from each other’s strengths in different regions, enabling both companies to expand their international presence and strengthen their market position.
“After several months of talks and negotiations, we are happy to announce this important step for our companies specifically, and for the international independent community in general“, comments Erik Brataas, Managing Director of Phonofile AS. He continues: “We have over the years developed a deep respect for how finetunes have been working in their territories, and to their ethos in the approach to a more transparent music industry future, offering true mobility for up and coming independent artists and labels.”
Oke Göttlich, Managing Director of finetunes GmbH adds: “finetunes and Phonofile joining forces is a great achievement in strengthening the independent sector, made possible in large part by the strategic vision of Erik Brataas in initiating the talks, and by finetunes co-Managing Director Henning Thieß, who designed the economic structure of the deal and the set-up.” Göttlich continues: “We have for many years seen Phonofile playing a role in defining how technology should benefit independent artists and labels, with an admirable approach to transparency in practice, to analytics and to digital marketing.”
The two companies will collectively offer market-leading positions in key European markets, thanks to their existing local strengths in the Nordics and the German-speaking markets respectively.
With existing successful presences in two very different markets, the teams believe in the combining of deep understanding of the German market, the third biggest music market in the world, with the knowledge arising from Phonofile’s market leading position in the most advanced digital market in the world, and that this will benefit both companies as well as all the labels and artists they represent. Both teams have a deep knowledge and understanding of the digital market, and by combining their forces, they will further optimize both companies’ growth potential.
“The collaboration will mean that our North European clients can benefit from new opportunities in the third largest market worldwide: Germany,” say Göttlich and adds: “Erik and I have already experienced a great co-operative working relationship as board members of (independent rights agency) Merlin BV. I am confident that this fusion will be a big step forward for both companies and a big step forward for our clients.”
Brataas adds: “There will be numerous benefits, most notably due to our existing focus on different territories and the collective ambition we can offer in terms of marketing independent artists internationally. Both Phonofile and finetunes share the same strategic thinking of expanding in new markets and developing new technology and marketing instruments for artists and labels working with us, enabling them to grow through using our services.”
Phonofile (since 1999) is a digital pioneer, and the biggest of its kind in the leading Nordic markets. We strive to give independent labels and their artists an overview and knowledge in the constantly changing world of digital music. From offices in Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and London we distribute music from our innovative and ambitious labels to the whole world. We believe in transparency and fair compensation combined with great knowledge of the new world of digital marketing and communication, and this approach we are constantly developing into features for implementation into our tech system.
We are passionate about music, artists and labels. Since 2003 our focus has been to create fair and innovative music-driven success stories for independent labels and licensing partners. With offices in the UK, USA, France and Germany we aim to provide successful marketing solutions for our products through daily, dedicated work. Transparency and innovation are not just buzzwords but some of the main pillars finetunes as a company is built on.
SendR – through its affiliate companies – is a digital distributor and license exploitation enabler. SendR currently enables the non-physical exploitation of more than a million media assets (audio- and video-tracks) with about 450 licensees (including Apple iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Spotify, YouTube etc.). The services offered by its affiliate companies cover the entire value chain for the digital media (esp. audio and video) contents. Thereby its affiliate companies are both provider and supplier for artists, record labels, licensed digital services providers and private consumers.
Manifest Awards 2016
As very proud sponsors of the ’Manifest Awards 2016’ (the Swedish Indie Grammys) we are very much looking forward towards the event which is just around the corner.
Phonofile Youtube Analytics
We’re excited to inform that YouTube data is now part of the Phonofile Analytics section, including daily trend data from YouTube and YouTube Red. This provides yet another layer of information that can add knowledge about how your releases and artists perform on a day to day basis, and the relationship between your marketing activities and performance on different services.On the front page, we’ve added a new graph for “Video views” containing data from YouTube:
If you proceed to the analytics section and search for a specific release or artist, the analytics view now shows seperate graphs for YouTube and YouTube Red. In addition, much like with the Spotify Playlist feature, we have now added the button “YouTube Channels”. Click on this to view more detailed information about your YouTube performance, including top lists per channel and the distinction between user generated content (UGC) and premium content.
You find your analytics data here: https://login.phonofile.com/
Nominees for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize
The Nordic jury – consisting of music critics and journalists from the five Nordic countries – released the following statement, referring to their hand-picked short-list of nominees to be considered for the final prize:
“The Nordic idea of a collective welfare system continues to be a model society for politicians around the world. Yet the Nordic Music Prize jury have managed to find 12 strongly individualist expressions coming out of Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. From established stars like Björk over upcoming darlings like Seinabo Sey and Jaakko Eino Kalevi to strange and adventurous souls like Frisk Frugt and Jenny Hval.
The jury have once again embraced the unmistakably brilliant minds as well as the deeply personal tempers. Some of them reaching out to a wider audience, maybe confirming a Nordic feel, others diving deep into uncharted territory, blowing up any kind of stereotypes.”
The winner will be announced at a ceremony at by:Larm Festival in Oslo on Thursday 3rd March, so let’s not wait any longer – let’s take a closer look at each of the nominees for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize!
Teitur Magnusson – 27 [Iceland]
Teitur excelled on his 2015 release 27, which saw the Icelandic musician perfecting the craft of making simple yet striking, melodic and thoughtful tunes, which explore the important emotional issues of day to day life in a direct and powerful way. Not just a solo musician, Teitur Magnusson is also a member of Icelandic reggae group Ojba-Rasta, proving that the music that he makes is as versatile as it is disarming.
Björk – Vulnicura [Iceland]
Written in the aftermath of a difficult break up, Björk‘s ninth studio album Vulnicura is a truly majestic piece of work. The lyrics arrive in a stream of consciousness address to a departed ex-lover and it’s emotional honesty have you hooked in a second.
Frisk Frugt – Den Europæiske Spejlbue [Denmark]
Anders Lauge Meldgaard – alias Frisk Frugt’s – third album is quite a departure from his previous release, which saw him interpreting music from Mali and Burkina Faso. This time, the artist has been travelling around Europe and experimenting with the folk and classical music he found on the way, resulting in a modern and contemporary take on songwriting, woven into orchestral collages.
Myrkur – M [Denmark]
M is the first full-length album by Danish one-woman black metal project Myrkur who burst onto the Nordic music scene in 2014. On M, Amalie Bruun, the voice behind Myrkur, blends secondwave black metal, Nordic folk music and haunting choirs, showcasing the artist’s prodigious compositional and vocal talents.
Danni Toma – Grå [Denmark]
Danish-Palestinian rapper Danni Toma had his break through as a member of the Aalborgs HvadEvigt? crew but has since made a name for himself in the Danish rap scene. Toma started working on Grå right after his first solo debut album Woman was released in 2013, helping him to cope with and overcome a breakup with his ex-girlfriend of eight years.
Ost & Kjex – Freedom Wig [Norway]
Five years after Cajun Lunch, the Norwegian House duo Ost & Kjexreturned in great style, channeling all sorts of deep dance music for their new album Freedom Wig. Their sound has matured heavily, and Freedom Wig captures us with hypnotic vocals, a gospel choir and collaborations with various artists from the thriving Norwegian music scene.
Band of Gold – Band of Gold [Norway]
What began as a pile of homemade demo recordings by singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Nina Elisabeth Mortvedt, now appears as the first record by Band of Gold under the same name. In collaboration with her other half, musician and producer Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen,Band of Gold has become a celebration of skeletal funk, country soul and chamber pop, full of musical details.
Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl [Norway]
Jenny Hval has in recent years made a name for herself as a writer, journalist, recording and sound artist both in Norway and abroad and her exceptional third album Apocalypse, girl was produced by Norwegian noise music legend Lasse Marhaug, stretching the limits of what pop music can sound like and testing our imaginations at the same time.
Seinabo Sey – Pretend [Sweden]
Pretend, the breakthrough record by Seinabo Sey, contains instantly addictive, beautifully crafted pop music, laced with fiery gospel choirs, trip-hop beats and a voice strong enough to move mountains. The artist just took home the prestigious trophy for ‘Best Artist’ at Sweden’s P3 Guld Awards, so we’re excited to see if her success will be mirrored at the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize…
Anna von Hausswolff – The Miraculous [Sweden]
The miraculous place, the alternative dimension where human beings like to escape to from everyday life became the focal point of Anna Von Hausswolff‘s third album The Miraculous. Recorded in part in Piteå, Sweden on one of Scandinavia’s largest pipe organs, these hauntingly beautiful melodies sound as if they’re carved out of ice blocks and accompanied by the arctic wind.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi – Jaakko Eino Kalevi [Finland]
Jaakko Eino Kalevi is one of the most hyped and loved Finnish artists, busily bringing his irresistible voice and style to festivals in Europe and the United States. His self-titled album Jaakko Eino Kalevi is a richly immersive and hyper-vivid record, taking us to a wondrous place where everything happens in its own time. Click here to check out Jaakko’s very own Nordic Playlist and to see what some of his favourite tunes from the Nordics are!
Pekko Käppi & KHHL – Sanguis meus, mama![Finland]
Pekko Käppi, a well known player of the jouhikko, a traditional Nordic bowed string instrument, teamed up with Tommi Laine and Nuutti Vapaavuori to form Pekko Käppi & KHHL in 2013, releasing Sanguis meus, mama! in 2015. The trio’s minimalistic and straightforward sound has a distinct odour of pop, layered with colliding rhythms and psychedelic sights.
Introducing Phonofile Royalties – Royalty statements made easy and transparent
We’re happy to present Phonofile Royalties, a brand new service for our label partners to ease the process of create and distribute royalty statements. Additionally, we hope it can improve transparency by enabling them to give their artists online access to detailed information for each statements.
- Register the royalty rates for the involved rights-holders.
- Add sales from other sources (physical sales, merch etc)
- Deduct any cost and/or advance payments from either gross sales or royalty amount
- Send emails with statements to rights-holders with a few clicks
- Provide online access to Phonofile Royalties for the artists.
Add sales points to your products!
As a global digital distributor Phonofile has the possibility to pitch products to a wide range of digital music stores, playlists and campaigns. When communicating a priority release to the stores, we are asked for “product sales points” describing why a specific product/release should be prioritized or get extra promotion in the stores. To be able to do the best possible job when pitching releases, we need you to give us the good sales points when uploading a new priority release.
4-5 bullet points (in English) describing your artist / release.
Tell us why your product should get priority status / extra promotion in the digital music stores. We will use this information when pitching your releases to the digital music stores, playlists and campaigns.
How to add sales points to a product?
You can add sales points when creating a new product or add sales points to an existing product.
1) When creating a new product:
Click “Description” and “Sales points” to add your sales points.
2) Add sales point to existing a product:
Search for a product in your catalogue. Click on the product title to view product.
Click on “Description” and “Sales points” to add your sales points.
Example sales points:
Some of these might apply to your particular release. Remember, even if it is not a pop music release, it can have some genre specific good sales points. Place your strongest sales point at the top of your list.
- This is one of the most popular artists in X genre
- This is one of the most popular solo artists in X market
- New single “X”, due for release January 25th 2016
- New studio album “X” in pipeline, due December 2016
- This is a platinum act and #1 selling artist in X territory
- This artist has X million streams in “X” music service
- We are using X agency, X management, X, Y, Z promo agency/publicist
- This artist has X streams on their latest YouTube video
- This artist was the lead-singer in “X”, who sold more than X albums
- This is the artist’s third solo album (two last albums entered #1 at X album sales chart)
- Strong fan base and huge following. Close to X likes on Facebook.
- Frequent touring in UK and key markets are UK, US and Scandinavia (playing solo shows and festivals).
- Extensive touring spring / summer 2016
- Featuring [famous artist] B on track X Artist will be playing X, Y and Z festivals
- Sync will be worked by X, previous syncs has been X,Y,Z
Sales points are sent to music business professionals only, and should be written with that in mind!