Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Swede as

What's the Matter With Sweden? That's the title of an article on Pitchfork that looks at government funding of music in Sweden. You only have to think of the number of acts that have leapt onto the world stage in recent years - Likke Li, Robyn, the Knife, Little Dragon, Fever Ray and more - to see that their government's cultural policies are paying off. The article is from 2010, but still has some interesting points.

"... countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Canada make it easier for bands to focus on the creative arts by providing not only universal health care, but often cold hard cash, too. Every year, millions in public money goes toward recording, artist promotion, videos, venues, touring, festivals - even showcases at South By Southwest or CMJ Music Marathon.

"Things that are not possible are made possible," notes Ólöf Arnalds, an Icelandic singer/multi-instrumentalist who has benefited from government support. Over the past decade, Sweden has, perhaps not coincidentally, become a major player in global indie music. So, too, has Canada, which also enjoys government support for pop music..."

So, how much does Sweden spend on funding musicians? One example...

"The Swedish Arts Grants Committee allocates about 19 million SEK ($2.7 million) to musicians annually. There's also Export Music Sweden, which organized two all-Swedish SXSW showcases with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Austin, Texas."

And the article points out, just like with NZ On Air's Making Tracks funding, there are frustrated artists who miss out...

"With any public assistance for music, there are surely warts. Swedish artist and producer Tobias Fröberg voices one commonly heard complaint: "How do you pick one act from another to get financial support from the government? Of course, this is a delicate question, and it can be questioned by everybody, except for the lucky ones."

Others note the difficulties of paperwork and accounting, which aren't necessarily a musician's strong suit; companies in Canada will fill out artists' FACTOR applications for them, for a fee."

Then there are the hurdles that musicians face in Iran...

"... As two new movies screening at festivals this year show, music really is life or death there. Hassan Khademi's documentary Rapping in Tehran explores the Persian-language rap scene; Bahman Ghobadi's No One Knows About Persian Cats tells the story of Tehran's underground indie music community. "Support? Are you kiddin' me?" a member of Iranian expatriate band Take It Easy Hospital, the film's main protagonists, emails from London. "We are blessed not to be executed."

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