Norwegian Road Trip, Part 3: Oslo, July 12-14, 2010
One of the aspects to Norway that differentiates it from so many other countries, is the support afforded not just to music, but to all forms of culture. Even jazzcertainly a marginalized art form in most countriesreceives tremendous assistance from governments on a federal and municipal level. At the heart of the federal funding program for music in Norway is the Music Information Centre (MIC). Situated in the Nasjonalbiblioteket (National Library), the building itself may be old, but inside, entering MIC, there are computers with large, widescreen monitors and a distinctively modernist bent. Martin Revheim is the Director of MIC, and it would be hard to find a more qualified person. He started the legendary Oslo club Blå, ran a record label, was the director of the Kongsberg Jazz Festival for four years, and all this while not yet forty years old.
Nasjonalbiblioteket (National Library), home of Music Information Center
"The Music Information Centre has been running for more than thirty years," Revheim explains, "and it's based on the mandate of promoting the Norwegian music scene in general, in all genres; making Norwegian music more visible, more heard, with more income to the performers and the composers. We do this by adding three pillars in our activity: we act as a publisherwe have over 14,000 scores of Norwegian music, 8,000 of them already digitized; we act as a promoter with an English site called Listen Towe make the publications of Listen to Norway, we make a radio show called 99 Minutes of Bliss, and we are running a Norwegian website; and we work with a total index of performers, recordseverything in our databaseand we also run an independent web publication for debate and features on the Norwegian music scene. Sometimes it's a challenge to pinpoint the core activity, but this is what we do and we are now 13 people running the Centre."
MIC also acts as a funnel for a variety of other organizations. "We are run by five of the biggest and most important organizations within the Norwegian music scene, like the unions, and the organizations for all the independent record labels, the composers union...so it's quite a broad variety of organizations that own us. In terms of funding we are funded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we act as the advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it comes to questions about music. We also run the whole travel support thing on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so when Norwegian bands and ensembles apply for support for different projects outside of Norway, it's run by the Music Information Centre. It's funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but MIC acts as the conduit."
MIC also puts programs together for people abroad, to expose them to Norwegian music through attending any of the 500+ festivals that take place in Norway each and every year. "I think one of the advantages is that we get our support from the two Ministries." Revheim explains. "We don't get any support from private sponsors, or anything with a specific interest in any field. There are several semi-neutral organizations, but our mandate is to be totally neutral to any festival, organizer, whatever...so we work for and with everyone, depending on different projects. And being a festival in Germany, for instance, or anywhere in the world, and wanting to get to know more about the Norwegian music scene, we act as a starting point for many of these projects. We put together programs; when a booker comes to Norway, he/she will meet with several different people. When you travel as a booker you always meet other bookers, or you meet another record label, and they will, of course, narrow the view and the total scope of what you experience in Norway, so we try to make it as open as possible, and we mostly facilitate different meetings. When this is all going well we just go onto another project, start trying to get more people together and make new projects happen."
With ten foreign promoters and correspondents converging on Molde next week, what is MIC's role? "We always work on what is interesting for the festival or the label or whatever; we don't force any projects on anyone. The attendees are invited by the festival, funded mostly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What we do is to operate and help it work; so I will be there together with the visitors and make some sort of arrangements around the event, so we are more involved as a partner. The festival knows who is best matched to its program and profile, and I think it's getting better and better in Norway, using the specific competence in every different organization or festival, rather than being an office that tells people 'this journalist is coming to your festival,' because it could be a mismatch. So the people that are coming to Molde are people that the festival knows have an interest in the festival and the festival program, and they actually have something there to do. So we just help out."