Viva Sounds is Gothenburg's annual showcase festival and music industry gathering for the past 5 years. Västra Götaland's indie music organization Westside Music Sweden is behind the party, and since the beginning of the festival Gothenburg has definitely been put on the international map with bookings of indie pop/rock/alternative/electronic from Sweden and many different countries. This year, the festival was spread over several stages around the other Långgatan and Stigberget — so was the seminar part. All panels and talks took place in smaller venues that created a very nice and familiar feeling, something that characterizes the whole of Viva Sounds. It feels like the whole world is knocking in little Gothenburg for two days, at the same time that everyone becomes good friends and gets a nice space to talk on. 🙂
MCV's Annelie and Veronica were there, and started the Friday afternoon with a meeting as the non-profit organizers association VG Live (part of Swedish Live) organized. There we met local organizers from the region (including Kultivation, Dalfestivalen and Lilla Björkö), the Administration for Cultural Development, Svensk Live, the City of Borås and others. It was a nice meeting where many of us who had beamed together during the Reeperbahn Festival got a chance to see each other again. Furthermore, a bunch of concerts followed during the evening, at e.g. rock venue The Abyss and Andra Långgatan's Skivhandel.
Saturday morning offered an opening speech at Kvarterscenen 2 Lång, by festival general Mattias Tell, who kicked off the entire day's talks and panels with his welcome. In the audience were i.a. Gothenburg and co, Culture Development, Gathenhielmska, Sofar Sounds and Studiefrämjandet represented.
Mattias Tell, Viva Sounds / Westside Music Sweden
First up was the panel “The show must go on”, which was about where the indie music scene is today. The panel included Carol Rodriguez Heringer from Baltimore Productions in Spain, which organizes several festivals around Spain (Low Festival, Warm Up Festival, Fuzzville and Spring Festival). Metal journalist Greg Kennelty from Metal Injection was there and talked about the blog's journey from being independent to now being owned by a larger company. Also on the panel was Patrik Larsson, A&R at the Swedish record company Playground. The questions revolved around the concept of "indie" (independent) and there was some talk about "being" indie (having your own/local ownership, not belonging to a larger company) and that it should not be confused with genre indie. Carol talked about the lack of community feeling today; there is more competition between the festivals than there is cooperation. Fortunately, they themselves work in territories outside the biggest cities, and can build the community more locally where they operate, with the city's support.
Playground's Patrik talked about there being a trend of "adaptation"; that artists try to be what they think is desirable. As an artist, you might also become an influencer, and adapts themselves very much. It's more important to follow your heart instead of strategizing to get on the playlists; the act has to work out what it wants to do with its career — like book gigs, set up tours, get its music out there, and push on. Don't worry too much about getting a record deal or waiting for something magical to happen.
Metal Injections Greg filled in the importance of highlighting the smaller acts in the media and as a consumer — not always what people always "want". Articles about the biggest bands are always read and get a lot of attention, but it is an important task as a journalist to elevate newcomers and thus help create the chance to awaken new stars in the music sky.
Carol also mentioned a positive trend in the Spanish music market; that young bands make their own music and don't care so much if they mix genres or cross boundaries. It's like a new "movement" where artists decide for themselves, create their own rules and are not as controlled by the record companies or the market. Globalization has also opened up so that more countries are entering a market that was previously mostly controlled from e.g. USA or UK. While the market is more global than before, the music is becoming more so local than ever.
Panel discussion at Kvartersscenen 2 Lång
Another conversation during the day was about festivals and went under the name "Come as you are". The festival general of Festival Marvin in Mexico was there, Ceci Velasco. She said that the festival was born out of the magazine Revista Marvin, which was celebrating its tenth anniversary. They put on a bunch of gigs over a whole day to celebrate, and so a festival was on. 🙂 Trollhättan's Subkultfestivalen and their general Mirre Sennehed sat on the panel and highlighted the festival's work in creating a subculture platform for everyone to have a place, no matter what you do or how you look — with a strong equality and inclusion perspective. “A meeting point for freaks”. Come as you are, simply. They believe that smaller festivals are important for the grassroots organizations around, and the work with local ambassadors.
Focus Wales were also represented in the conversation, with Andy Jones booker for the festival with more than 20 stages and 20.000 visitors each year. The festival started in 2010 with the aim of creating a bridge between the country's various genre expressions and to create an infrastructure for the national music scene. The festival is not commercially driven and does not aim to sell as many tickets as possible; instead, the focus is on putting new music on the map. They gather over 500 delegates every year and work hard on international marketing.
Festival Marvin spans around ten stages with over 70 bands. They have managed to create a community in Mexico City over a long time, and do not only work as a festival — they have started a café (with a focus on spreading electronic music), publish books and constantly create opportunities around andra things happening in town. You hook into different initiatives, quite simply. In this way, the community is kept alive. Ceci also told us that they never put the biggest band (the headline act) last in the schedule; instead, the bigger bands start the entire festival so that the smaller acts get space and as much attention as possible.
The opposition council for the Social Democrats in the Västra Götaland region Alex Bergström, gave a short speech about the music life in the region and the importance of Viva Sound for the infrastructure.
David Fricke, legendary music journalist (US) — gave a very inspiring talk about the power of music and his view on how to support the music and not just fall prey to the distribution services that don't pay the artists fairly. Among other things David was the one who booked Patti Smith's first concert, went with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on their tours, worked at Rolling Stone magazine for over thirty years and has his own music radio show.
David Fricke, interviewed by GP's Johan Lindqvist
We then moved to the small tavern Holy Moly for the conversation “Around the world” about international music export, and how music moves around the world. Reeperbahn Festival was represented by Evelyn Sieber, Cesar Andion were from Live Nation/The Spanish Wave (Spain) and Marianna Tanska from Music Export Ukraine (Ukraine). The conversation revolved around how the war has changed the market for music, that it is becoming increasingly expensive with events (electricity costs etc.), that it has been difficult to recover from the worst part of the pandemic until the war broke out. Export Music Ukraine talked about working with newly established/upcoming bands mainly, and that they are now helping to spread the word about all artists and cultural practitioners from Ukraine to create support during this difficult time. There has been a lot of media coverage, of course beyond the usual due to the prevailing situation, for Export Music Ukraine. “Empathy creates support.” Det är också viktigt att understryka att det är fler länder runtomkring i Europa som också drabbats av kriget. En annan aspekt av det hela är att t.ex manliga artister inte kan bokas utomlands i samma utsträckning eftersom de måste vara posterade i Ukraina för att rycka in.
Reeperbahn's Evelyn added that it is now more complicated than ever to work internationally, purely logistically, because of the war. Difficult to bring artists to Europe from other continents. Evelyn also mentioned that for their showcases at the festival, they take help from the export offices to find music from different countries.
Cesar from Live Nation in Spain also talked about how, despite tough times, you now become stronger together, and collaborate more. Music is a unifying force. Overall, the music export industry has changed a lot, young people today listen to music without paying much attention to from whence a band is coming. The territories and country borders are blurred a little more. Online accessibility removes the barriers.
Industrial Puke på The Abyss
The afternoon turned into the evening and then followed concerts at e.g. The ship GBG and around Andra Långgatan. A really nice festival pendant! Overall it was a very nice weekend in true Viva Sounds spirit! Many representatives and delegates from all over the world met on a few streets in Gothenburg, and it was a fond reunion of people we had previously met both in a freelance context and via Westside Music Sweden.