Daniel Nordgård has a broad background in music, formerly as a musician and artist, but later working as a project manager and occupying different positions in the Norwegian music sector. In particular Nordgård has worked with music festivals and the live sector in various positions including as festival manager for the Quart-festival in Norway in 2007-2008. Nordgård recently finished his doctorate in music with the dissertation Determining Factors on Digital Change in the Music Industries (2017).
Nordgård teaches music business at the University of Agder’s master program on music management and works as a senior researcher at Agder Research, a private research institute. His research is largely devoted to the music and cultural industries, with an emphasis on digital change in the music industries. In 2013 he was appointed by the Norwegian Government to lead their committee on digital changes in the music industries. He holds several positions in numerous national and international boards, including GRAMO (the Norwegian collecting society for recording artists and record companies), The Norwegian Film Institute and GramArt (The Norwegian featured artist organisation). He also sits on the board of the IMBRA (the International Music Business Research Association).
Interviewed by Andy Inglis
AD: Hi Daniel. Back in 2008, you and I destroyed Kristiansand’s Quart Festival together, which we’re not proud of, of course. When we ran Sørveiv Conference, no one seemed to notice we were together again in Kristiansand, as part of a festival organisation. Do you think anyone will notice this year, and perhaps start a campaign to have us removed?
DN: Yes, that’s right – we did destroy a very proud part of Kristiansand’s music history. However, we shouldn’t take all the credit for its demise. It was in a fairly poor shape when we took over; we simply finalised the last stages of something bound to happen. At least that’s what I keep telling myself! And so, when we took over Sørveiv last year you might think someone would have noticed that the superteam of the infamous 2008 event was back, but I think this has gone better than expected¹. Sørveiv 2016 went well and we’re in a fantastic position to make a great Sørveiv in 2017; lots of inspiring people coming to town to present, discuss and share insights and opinions on a business that is in great turmoil. It’s going to be a great couple of days! That said, I suspect that part of our success this time is due to the smooth leadership of Anna Willrodt. She’s kept us on track and away from mischief. We didn’t have Anna in 2008. Things may have been very different if we’d had a bit of her German fingerspitzengefühl ².
AD: We set out to make Sørveiv different from other conferences. In some ways it’s pretty easy to do that since they generally follow the same format. What’s the one aspect of Sørveiv you think we got the most right in 2016, and what do you want to improve upon?
DN: I think dialog is the key word here! We have both participated in numerous music conferences nationally and internationally, on both sides of the (panel) table. And one thing I’ve always missed is the chance to discuss and hear other people’s opinions on the topics. I’ve sometimes had the feeling that there’s more experience and knowledge among the listeners than among the speakers. And unless you invite these people to contribute and speak their mind, you’re missing out. Also, and somewhat related to this first point, what often surprises me are the speakers who come in, speak and leave, as if there’s nothing else interesting beyond their own contribution. I believe a key criteria to a great conference is a shared understanding of the conference as a whole – that the dialogue we create together is the ultimate goal. I think we managed to come fairly close to this goal last year. And I think we will come even closer this year! Initially, my goal for this year was to be earlier with everything (organising the program together with you and Francine), be better prepared and answer mails quicker. And to start using Slack! It all failed! But the event will be very good and I look forward to it!
AD: Most countries have one industry showcase conference. Norway has one in each major city. Do you think the insistence of Norway’s city’s to always have what all the other cities have (a music festival, a showcase festival and conference, a concert hall etc) is damaging, or just a natural outcome of a socially ‘level’ society with a lot of money providing its citizens with what it needs to produce and support culture?
DN: I think in some ways it’s damaging in the way that people (professionals, amateurs and audiences) may grow tired of it. If the showcase conferences are all replicas with much of the same programs and speakers – if all we manage is to set up a local version of by:Larm – then it won’t work. But if the fact that we have so many similar events forces us to innovate and come up with new offers and new experiences, tackling problems and opportunities in a variety of ways, then I believe Norway’s showcase conferences could be full of variety and insight. I don’t think Norway is unique in this way though; the same forces are at work elsewhere, in other countries and conferences. The difference here is that we’re a small country with a rural policy that dictates local representation and identity. Which is great! And if we could nurture this and build a variety of events and experiences, drawing on a variety of opinions and insights, then it could become a huge asset for us.
AD: There’s a perception among some that Kristiansand’s local government hasn’t always been fully supportive of culture in a wider sense, though of course such opinions are often subjective or biased. Would you agree, and do you see that changing in the near future? If not, how can the city and its creative community do better at supporting itself?
DN: In many ways you could say that Kristiansand has actually been very supportive of the arts, of the creative community and the cultural sector. For instance, I believe they spent a lot of money on our final Quart attempt in 2008! I guess it depends on who you ask and who we compare ourselves with. I think we spend a lot of money and resources on investments and buildings and less on creating art and the creators. But that’s a universal problem, not specifically a Kristiansand problem. And, depending on whom you’d ask, I know a lot of people envious of the support we have in Kristiansand, so we should be careful of complaining too loudly, and be as vocal when there is praise to be given.
AD: What’s the one topic you want to talk about, that no one else wants to talk about, and even you’re scared to talk about?
DN: Quality! I’d love to talk about artistic quality, but I’d be too scared to do so. Concepts of quality dictate cultural policies, public spending, public debates and artistic claims of entitlements s all the time. It’s also a key variable in change – digital or non-digital. But even though I have my Doctorate in music at the University of Agder³, I have no concepts or frameworks for articulating quality in music. But I have opinions about it. And I’d love to talk about it.
AD: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Sørveiv?
DN: Tough one! I believe we’ve come up with a really interesting program this year, one that would have made me travel to Kristiansand in a heartbeat to take part in (had I lived outside of Kristiansand, God-forbid). But I’m really looking forward to our sessions on music journalism and on curation. These are fascinating topics and we’ve been so lucky to have all these great people joining us, so I think these will become highlights this year
¹ Given that Sørveiv Conference didn’t go bankrupt one month before it was due to take place, yep, it certainly went better than Quart 2008
² I had to look it up too
³ In case you missed that, Daniel has a Doctorate in music