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"Do we really want to change America into Sweden?" YES
March 29, 2010 2:57 PM   Subscribe

What's the matter with Sweden? How public funding for the arts has turned countries like Sweden into Meccas for indie music.
posted by dunkadunc (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sad he didn't mention one of Sweden's greatest musical exports, The Refused, who purportedly spent their public funding money on bespoke suits to mimic The Nation of Ulysses.
posted by saladin at 3:04 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


as a liberal, this is a terrible idea (for the us)
posted by nathancaswell at 3:04 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh great, now I am in the mood to listen to the Hives (not like I need any coaxing in that department)...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:06 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH and by the way I hear that Refused isn't fucking dead: THEYRE REUNITING.

(I have to say I really liked International Noise Conspiracy, though. Umeå seems like it must be a really neat place to live.)
posted by dunkadunc at 3:07 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH and by the way I hear that Refused isn't fucking dead: THEYRE REUNITING.

OH MY GOD YOU WEREN'T KIDDING.
posted by saladin at 3:10 PM on March 29, 2010


Obligatory plug for bob hund.
posted by dhammond at 3:12 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I await Obama's Indie Music Bill with bated breath.
posted by GuyZero at 3:28 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


As long as there's some way to prevent money from going to bands that I think suck, I'm all for this!
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:29 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


In terms of arts, lots of nations do a lot better in their support of local artists to the international audience than the US. Mexico has FONCA (official site), the Philippines has NCCA (official site), there's Creative New Zealand (official site), and many more Arts Councils around the world. It's not just Canada and Sweden, those bastions of socialism. In other words, USA is behind the times in a big way.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


To say nothing of the Swedish melodic Death Metal.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2010


A great example is Arcade Fire's Funeral. It wasn't until the American press picked up on it that it got played on Canadian radio. The CanCon thing was kind of out the window there.

Actually, I think this is a terrible example. The Arcade Fire weren't signed to a Canadian label and Merge didn't bother to put MAPL stamps on the packaging--the indicator to radio stations that the content qualifies for CanCon. The success of The Arcade Fire caught everyone by surprise, including their own record label, who didn't press enough to meet demand.

To also suggest that the album was ignored in Canada until the USA press started barking about it is absurd considering the album was reviewed by Pitchfork, the publication many point to as the initiator of the album's success, prior to or simultaneously to when it was released in Canada (mid September, 1994).

The sad state of affairs at the time was the lack of quality indie labels in Canada. Arts and Crafts (a label I'm not personally fond of but who signs acts many people like) wasn't even around then and the only other Toronto-based label who would have been appropriate was Three Gut Records, which put AF on its anniversary gig in 1993. Unbeknownst to many at the time, the two label heads were considering packing it in (and they did, shortly after) so thought it best not to sign a new band.

Canada is still lacking pretty thoroughly in good labels. There are a couple but considering the talent up here, it's pretty slim pickins.
posted by dobbs at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2010


What's The Matter With Sweden?

I'm guessing the answer is "way too much awesome for just one country?"
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


dobbs: "... the album was reviewed by Pitchfork, the publication many point to as the initiator of the album's success, prior to or simultaneously to when it was released in Canada (mid September, 1994)."

Please tell me you mean 2004 and that I wasn't that behind the times when I first heard them ...
posted by barnacles at 3:38 PM on March 29, 2010


I was pleasantly surprised to see that the issue of health care as a national arts funding issue was mentioned in the article. I didn't think Pitchfork would dare to get actually political by mentioning the real outcomes for artists of policy choices and our votes. Kudos to them for including that in describing the differences between the US and Sweden (and the UK).
posted by immlass at 3:48 PM on March 29, 2010


In terms of arts, lots of nations do a lot better in their support of local artists to the international audience than the US.

Well yes, because the US market buys a huge share of the world's music. And if you're an American band and you sell a lot of records in the US, the world will find you without needing much help.

That said, Sweden is awesome and Jens Lekman is the coolest ever.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh, like I needed yet another excuse to listen to Vintersorg...
posted by spinifex23 at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010


When people think of Sweden
I think they have the wrong idea
like Cliff Richards who thought it was just
porn and gonorrhea

And Lou Reed said in the film
"Blue in the face"
that compared to New York City
Sweden was a scary place

posted by drjimmy11 at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Side note: I actually spoke to the awesomely friendly Jens after a show about this lyric. He confirmed that he meant "Cliff Richard," but mixed him up with "Keith Richards.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:01 PM on March 29, 2010


I await Obama's Indie Music Bill with bated breath.

Obamacore?
posted by snofoam at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


You know, I always wondered why more innovative/cutting edge music isn't made in nice social welfare sponsoring countries in Europe. But I guess you have to move your band to Brooklyn to make it big in any case...
posted by stratastar at 4:21 PM on March 29, 2010


You mean cutting edge music like Einsturzende Neubauten, MBV, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk?
posted by sien at 4:30 PM on March 29, 2010


No, he meant cutting edge music like ABBA, Lordi and Katrina and the Waves.
posted by GuyZero at 4:35 PM on March 29, 2010


What's The Matter With Sweden?

I'm guessing the answer is "way too much awesome for just one country?"

Well, yeah, but I'm considering moving abroad for a while, so that should bring things back to normal…
posted by monocultured at 4:37 PM on March 29, 2010


Let me tell you about Sweden
Only country where the clouds are interesting

posted by koeselitz at 5:28 PM on March 29, 2010


I loved Refused when they came to my town. And that was great too, they hit all the punk clubs across the country, not just NYC and California. Scott Ritcher, of many things but most importantly for me of the band Metroschifter, has also been living in and writing about Sweden.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:45 PM on March 29, 2010


I await Obama's Indie Music Bill with bated breath.

Obamacore?


By the time it gets through Congress, the spirit of bipartisanship and the "realities" of our political climate will have reduced the indie music bill into a subsidy for major labels, tea party activists will decry indie music as a pernicious attempt of the government to take over the rock scene, no significant measures will be taken to regulate Ticketmaster's dominance in concert sales, and competition from imported foreign albums will be banned. On the other hand, the bill will contain language ensuring that Wilco plays a minimum number of outdoor concerts starting in 2014 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be free to release two singles per year with significant airplay support, and although purists will complain that neither band can rightly be considered indie, these voices will be drowned out by a emotional majority demanding to know if they would prefer to be forced to listen to Ke$ha for 8 more years. Pitchfork will attempt to raise money for a grassroots movement to elect representatives with indie cred, but this will fall flat after media attention shifts to the controversy provoked by Rahm Emmanuel's private outburst calling Pitchfork a bunch of "fucking retarded hipsters". Ultimately, despite its failings in establishing a robust indie music scene, the bill will be widely hailed as a landmark success at music reform, and most will agree that it's the best we can hope for right now.
posted by millions at 6:33 PM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Marry me already, Jens.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:04 PM on March 29, 2010


I think this was mentioned in a previous thread on a similar subject - the idea of a tax on blank recording media that gets put into some kind of fund to be distributed to recording artists. Is that socialist? I think it just makes a lot of sense.
posted by chaff at 7:05 PM on March 29, 2010


I think it just makes a lot of sense.

Only if anyone who plays music can get a stipend of sorts from this fund. Otherwise it all goes to the big dogs.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:07 PM on March 29, 2010


Also:

Artists funded by FACTOR may be obscure today, but they sometimes go on to become famous later, Ostertag points out: "A lot of times people don't know who they are, and then they turn out to be Nickelback."


This is probably not the best example from a PR standpoint.
posted by chaff at 7:09 PM on March 29, 2010


Arcade Fire were indie Canadian Darlings back to the 2003 ep (which was initially indepentently released), hitting the college charts pretty well. They really hit "indie bigtime" by being the showstoppers at the Hillside Festival in August 2004.

I remember Canadians falling out of their seats for the Arcade Fire before they hit major American airplay. Although "Canadians"="Canadians who like indie music".

It is true that they hit American mainstream radio airtime before Canadian mainstream radio airtime. But the 2004 album was on constant rotation all over the community airwaves upon its release. Basically you didn't hear them in Canadian malls until they were being played in American malls, but the band had incredible support in Canada prior to the states.

I agree with dobbs, they would never have done well down south with a Canadian label.

Aside: I sometimes think that the arts council would love nothing more than for Randy Bachman to tour constantly so they wouldn't have to give money to anyone else.
posted by dr. moot at 7:49 PM on March 29, 2010


I think this was mentioned in a previous thread on a similar subject - the idea of a tax on blank recording media that gets put into some kind of fund to be distributed to recording artists.

Worked better as an idea before iPods.

Didn't work that well even then, because you had blank music CDRs vs. blank data CDRs, and one was taxed and pricey and one wasn't, and dedicated music burners only burned music CDRs, but computers took both, so people just bought data CDRs and burned them on their computers.
posted by smackfu at 8:34 PM on March 29, 2010


I think this was mentioned in a previous thread on a similar subject - the idea of a tax on blank recording media that gets put into some kind of fund to be distributed to recording artists

This was done. I haven't heard of any artist making a living wage off the proceeds.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:38 PM on March 29, 2010


Hmm I was unaware of this, thanks for the link RVP. It does seem kind of unmanageable in practice.
posted by chaff at 9:00 PM on March 29, 2010


Swedish bands may be churning out hits, but their vampires are creepy and messy, not sparkly Mormon vampires, like ours from western Washington state.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:01 PM on March 29, 2010


As someone who hounds on public funding for the arts every time the piracy debate gets trotted out, I'm glad this is getting a little more attention. Also, the Arcade Fire helps make my morning commute tolerable.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:56 PM on March 29, 2010


This is exactly what the states should control, except they're all too fucking broke.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Support? Are you kiddin' me?" a member of Iranian expatriate band Take It Easy Hospital, the film's main protagonists, e-mails from London. "We are blessed not to be executed."

Now that's sobering.
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on March 30, 2010


Arcade Fire were indie Canadian Darlings back to the 2003 ep (which was initially indepentently released)

They also were big enough to tour the US. They opened for the Unicorns, who were a fairly well-known band. Anyway, I was aware of them and had heard the EP before any of the Funeral stuff happened, and I don't follow the Canadian indie scene.
posted by naju at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2010



I await Obama's Indie Music Bill with bated breath.


Given how deeply in the pockets of the RIAA Obama is, the Indie Music Bill will presumably be tailored to make music-making too great a legal liability to be within reach of any but the major labels, allowing the RIAA labels to buy out Merge, K and Matador at fire-sale prices, and Time Warner to take over Pitchfork, and making sure that nothing new that threatens the big party donors' grip can emerge.
posted by acb at 2:51 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just read a BBC news article I thought was relevant to this discussion: UK 'can become top music nation'. It does help when you have an industry body pressing for a cabinet committee for the "creative industries". It's like the gag about the indie music bill, but for real.
posted by immlass at 4:00 PM on March 30, 2010


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