Interview with Aslak Oppebøen of Music Information Centre Norway

Aslak Oppebøen (Music Information Centre Norway)
As a complement to World Music Central’s series of articles about Norway, Angel Romero interviewed Aslak Oppebøen, Head of Information Department at Music Information Centre Norway.

What is the purpose of Music Information Centre Norway?

Our primary goal is to promote Norwegian music of all genres and styles, domestically as well as internationally. Through a number of promotional initiatives and information projects we try to raise greater awareness of Norwegian music among music industry execs, cultural organization representatives, musicians, media reps – and of course the general public at home and abroad.

What kind of initiatives does Music Information Centre Norway have to promote Norwegian music?

MIC Norway has been a staunch supporter of the Norwegian music scene for more than 30 years. During those three decades we have provided tour support for bands and performers, promoted and distributed scores worldwide, launched a selection of highly popular web-sites, been a key player on Norway’s cultural-political stage and held a position as a much-appreciated partner for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ missions around the globe.

Your organization has several different web sites, could you explain the difference between the various sites?

We have a domestically oriented web site called ballade.no. It is one of Norway’s most important music news and debate sites. Then we have the www.mic.no site that focuses on our services and activities. And finally, listento.no (Listen to Norway) which is one of the web’s few sites in English solely dedicated to news updates and interviews with artists and players on the Norwegian music scene.

Music Information Centre Norway publishes a magazine called Listen to Norway. Could you tell us more about it?

First of all, we label all our export activities under this headline, both on net and print. In the 90’s Listen to Norway (LTN) used to be a “normal” music magazine dedicated to the Norwegian music scene and distributed worldwide. By year 2000 the distribution costs almost killed us and we decided to go on net only. Since then we have only made targeted issues on print. For instance, we produced a tailored magazine for this year’s Førde Festival presenting some of the Norwegian artists that played on the festival. We have also made similar issues on Womex in Copenhagen and Showcase Scotland in Glasgow. Both text and design are produced in-house.

What kind of support and tools do you provide to Norwegian folk music artists?

Perhaps the most important being our travel and tour support programme. This is a much needed financial backing for Norwegian bands and performers hitting the road abroad. We have recently created a very user friendly web-portal called stikk.no to handle all applications – resulting in a hassle-free and un-bureaucratic user experience with reduced management costs as an additional bonus.

If anyone visited Oslo, what record stores would you recommend to purchase Norwegian folk music? And which music venues would you recommend for folk and world music?

Sadly there are no really good record stores left in the city that specializes in folk and world music. The best online selection however you will find on MICs own web shop mic.musiconline.no.

If you visit Oslo, I would strongly recommend “Riksscenen” a great new folk venue that opens on September 9. This date also marks the opening of “Folkelarm 2010”, Norway’s biggest folk-music convention and industry-gathering.

And don’t miss the book “A poor man’s connoisseur guide to happy living in one of the most expensive cities in the world”. You will not survive without it.

Where were you born?

Born in Oslo, home of painter Edvard Munch.

What type of music have you been listening to recently?

Besides my recent interest in folk and world music, I am a real jazz fan. Just now I am listening to Herbie Hancock’s Imagine album – a true mixture of pop, jazz and world music. After the concert at the Førde Festival with Norwegian fiddler Annbjørg Lien, I also listen a lot to her recent album “Come Home” – brilliant music!

Where do you live now?

I live in Oslo in a small house with a garden and riding my bicycle to work every day. Perfect during summer, but not that perfect in -20°C and snow. Winter is not really my favorite season.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Besides family activities I play guitar in a big band. I think it is important, sitting in the office all day, to play music and experience firsthand what music is all about: communication. Music first, then papers and emails.

What country would you like to visit?

Indonesia – in addition to being a big fan of Asian food, I find the gamelan music of Bali extremely interesting and I would like to study it closer – hopefully in the not so very distant future.

Which is your favorite city?

First, I must say that Oslo has got one of the best live scenes in Europe so it is a great place to live for a music fan. But my favorite city is definitely London.

What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?

That within all genres of music, regardless of its level of quality, there will be popular (as in commercially successful) and less popular (as in less commercially successful, but still artistically rewarding) stuff.

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