Ludvig Moon, Live at Trondheim Calling
Photo Austin Muirhead
Of all the Norwegian music festivals held every year, Trondheim Calling is possibly the most important. Sure, it doesn’t feature international stars in its line-up like it’s sister fest Øyafestivalen or former ‘ones to watch’ who have cracked their respective national music glass-ceilings as seen at by:Larm, but what it does, it does exceedingly well. More importantly, what it sets out to achieve – showcase upcoming Norwegian musical talent to a wide and diverse audience – it nails, with aplomb.
While Klubb-Øya features emerging artists for a pre-festival one night only, and Off:Larm sees newbies playing venues on the the periphery of the main festival campus, Trondheim Calling gives the rising stars of Norway’s music scene its complete attention. They are the cogs on which its ever growing wheel turns, central to its very being, not accessories to the fact.
No other music festival in Norway invests as much time, energy and money in importing international delegates to help export indigenous talent. With the assistance of industry bigwigs like Music Norway, NRK P3 and a plethora of press, bookers, agents and PR folks, as well as a horde of volunteers, the festival organising committee brings together a crack team of international industry heavies to mentor, advise, critique and encourage.
Central to the festival is a three day conference programme put together with complete interactivity in mind. It includes workshops, Q&A, presentations, interviews (this year saw mega-watt Talk Talk producer Phill Brown in conversation with Gary Bromham), as well as interactive studio, networking and pitching sessions.
Over the course of three days, a carefully selected expert delegation impart cold hard industry facts, deliver priceless advice and recount a variety of personal and business anecdotes, often with hilarious results. A little levity is always good to soften a professional environ, which for inexperienced ‘just wanna make music’ musicians, can be more than a little daunting. Daytime TC is a well oiled, professionally run, conference machine.
This year’s festival saw a new addition to its programme in the form of a pitch/mentoring experimental concept which the organisers hoped would better connect the conference and concert programmes. Entitled ‘Norway Calling’ it centred around seven acts presenting and playing to an international listening panel who subsequently offered feedback on the artist’s live performance, chosen song(s) and promo-pitching techniques. The aim was to help give “export ready” artists a bit of an edge, to add a little bit of polish to diamonds still in the rough!
The seven acts featured in the inaugural session were Ludvig Moon, Henrik the Artist, Frøder, Dreamarcher, AGY, Elsa & Emilie and Hajk. Each act had to make a three minute presentation to all of the festival delegation – national and international – which was then followed up with a series of pre-arranged speed-networking sessions with mentors of the artist’s choice.
The seven presentations of mixed quality, were very diverse indeed, ranging from heartfelt ad lib to Michael Moore style docu-films. What quickly became apparent were the varying levels of preparedness, assuredness and nous with which each act approached and handled their pitch. What was also evident was the level to which the acts had had their presenting skills honed by their label/management/pr teams, or not.
This is why festivals like Trondheim Calling are so, so important to indigenous emerging artists. In 2017, it’s no longer just about the music, the PA system or even the lyrics. These days music artists need to be semi-professional sales people on top of being highly skilled creatives. They need to know how, when and where to sell themselves and their music. How to grab the attention of bookers and press suffering from indie overload and electronic ennui.
Like all ‘aspiring’ brands, and ultimately branding is an integral piece of the holy grail jigsaw, bands need an USP. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child” no longer cuts it in a world spliced open by social media apps giving endless platforms to anyone and everyone from wannabe vlogger to gottabe fashion stylist. Today’s music artists don’t just need a new, unique sound, they also need a well honed elevator pitch!!
The TC conference programme aims to take musicians out of their comfort zones, opening them up to facts and figures to which they might not normally have access. With self-promotion, marketing and quality music writing focal points of the conference programme, the organising committee has ensured that Trondheim Calling stands apart from its festival peers.
By corralling delegates in a single festival space, TC affords Norway’s rising star musicians an unparalleled opportunity to speed-date their way around industry connoisseurs and aficionados, networking and connecting with people who in either the immediate or long terms, may be able to help them get onto the next rung of the music ladder.
Nocturnal TC is “all about the bass” and 2017’s line-up showcased the best of the latest crop of musicians who remain just under the parapet. Wall to wall music in every shape and shade performed by more than 70 artists, belts out from 10+ cross-Trondheim venues. With the bars and clubs in close quarters, it’s easy to hop from one venue to the next as one zig zags their way through jam packed, spoilt for choice nightly schedules.
With all tickets sold out, gaining entry to some of the smaller venues proved impossible, as anyone who turned up to bijou Moskus to see Pom Poko found out. However, in the main, queues moved quickly and gaining access to the majority of live performances was relatively easy. Strong, energised performances and hyped up, super enthusiastic audiences were the order of the festival. Yes, there were a few sound issues, but Albert Hall aside, aren’t there always!
What the artists playing TC lack in major league experience and slickly polished production they make up for in unbridled passion, raw undiluted talent and an energy of a wattage second only to that of the national grid. Audience after audience radiated excitement, danced exuberantly and sing-screamed appreciation. And at the end of a live set, no artist can ask for better than that.
In the world of emerging talent the unparalleled role played by Trondheim Calling is pivotal. This mid-Winter festival fulfils its brief and more. A three day support and networking hub for musical ingenues by day, stellar sonic showcase of rising stars that more than entertains cross-cultural, cross-generational audiences by night. It’s the perfect destination-fest for lovers of both music and travel alike.
Details of Trondheim Calling 2018 can be found here. Norwegian Airlines and SAS fly direct to Trondheim from multiple UK locations, or via Oslo or Stockholm from Dublin. The Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim is the festival’s HQ; rates and details can be found on their website.