Norrköping’s Where’s The Music? Festival has a truly international, border-breaking vision that starts at home in Sweden.
Where’s The Music? is a traditional music festival in one sense but also hosts a growing conference program and now in its third year, both the music and industry line-up continue grow.
With two nights of music, WTM’s aim is to introduce you to your favourite new artist and with their line-up that’s well and truly a possibility. Heading up the bill are five home-grown talents, some stars in their own right already in Sweden, others just beginning international rises to success. Thursday’s pre-party was definitely worth arriving in time for, it saw WTM host a night of hip-hop billed as the Nordic Crew Night with members of Sweden’s RMH and NIVY collectives joining forces with Norway’s NORA collective at Arbis in central Norrköping. Värmekyrkan – the largest of festival’s venues – plays host to the headliners offering an arena-style setting with its super high ceiling.
Friday night saw “living legend” Margus Carlsson take to the stage, having amassed fans as the frontman of indie rockers Weeping Willows and from his eclectic solo work. Also topping the bill on the first night of the festival was Erik Lundin, the Swedish Grammy winning star showcased growing precedent for creating fantastic rap music.
A special performance by Tomas Andersson Wij accompanied by Norrköping’s Ungdomskör (youth choir) began proceedings on Saturday night, followed by the spellbinding storytelling of Best Fit favourite pop sensation Skott with Hurula, a key figure in Swedish punk, closing the stage. Away from the headline stage performers the focus remains on Swedish and Scandinavian talent with the likes of off bloom, Frida Sundemo, Anna Of The North, Siv Jakobsen and Flora Cash. Non-Scandinavian acts included the UK’s Ben Hobbs, Lewis Watson and Haux’s minimalist-pop from the US.
You can either by a Festival ticket, which will get you into the music side of things or a Delegate ticket which allows entry to the exciting industry talks and panels which run in the day time.
If you’re heading to the conference side of proceedings then don’t stay out too late as things kick off at 10am with a welcome speech and panels beginning from 10:30am. Friday afternoon’s panels are over by 4:30pm, which means you’ll have a couple of hours to have a pre-gig nap, grab dinner or both! The first sets of the night start at 6:30pm and the final sets begin at 2:00am, so there’s plenty to see across the festival’s nine main venues. The conference program starts a little later on Saturday, so make sure you use this time wisely to rehydrate and have some breakfast with the first panels starting at noon and the final panel ending at 5:00pm.
Norrköping is not very big which means everything is quite easy to find, the venues and your way should you get lost. There are handy venue maps in the programme and on the fully functioning app which will send you reminders before artists, who you’ve starred beforehand, are about to play. Wifi may be hard to come by, but if don’t want to overspend on your data allowance an alternative option could be grabbing a pay-as-you-go 3 SIM card and taking advantage of their great “Feel At Home” package which works in Sweden!
You should be fine using card and contactless payment here, but if you do want to take cash make sure you organise it well in advance as most travel agents and post offices don’t tend to have stocks of Swedish Krona to hand with less than 24 hours’ notice.
It’s cold. Having visited Sweden in the summer, I’d always romanticised the Swedish winter as a snowy wonderland, in reality it was pretty grey. Needless to say take plenty layers and comfortable footwear as you’ll be walking between venues and while they may not be far apart those steps will add up and your legs and feet will hurt. If you don’t feel like walking that last 15 minutes back to the hotel the festival recommend either Taxi Kurir Norrköping or Taxi 100100 as your go to companies.
The main street of Norrköping has plenty of eating options and there’s a McDonalds if you’re not open to trying any of the local cuisine. There’s a handful of supermarkets around the city which are great for snacks and souvenir candy, but if you really want to try something delicious and Swedish then head towards the railway station and you’ll find MAX. MAX is a Swedish fast food restaurant, similar to McDonalds, but with lots of alternative fries, sauce and burger options and an unbeatable vegetarian menu which boasts the tantalising Vegan BBQ Sandwich – a must eat whether you’re strictly plant-based or love a juicy steak.
There’s so much to see and sometimes the walk between venues means you might have to tactfully catch the beginning of a set or just the end of a set. Don’t be afraid to do this, but if you’re wanting to see somebody – especially a Swedish artist – who may have a bigger profile back home than in the UK take that into account so you don’t miss out!
Make sure you talk to people, who knows who might be standing next you with industry professionals from Scandinavia and further afield. A little networking could go a long way, a new friend might even recommended an artist tip who could become a highlight of your whole festival.
One of the most notable experiences of our trip this year was attending the Viola Beach memorial, which began with a moving obituaries for both the band and their manager and was followed by an audio screening of the band’s final recorded performance.
The festival have also honoured the band and manager, Craig Tarry, by creating the Viola Beach and Craig Tarry Memorial Award. It’s first recipients were British band The Amazons and Paul Sonkamble, founder of Deerlily Management, each received 10,000 SEK. The plan is for the award to become a recurring prize in order for the festival to show their support to international acts which they believe in. So look out for the 2018 prize winning artist’s set and head to the set/s by those managed by the other prize winner.
Kind of, yes. With fluctuating exchange rates it’s sometimes quite difficult to work out exactly how much you’re spending, but the general rule of thumb is if you divide the SEK price by ten you’ll more or less have the price in GBP. If you’re wanting to buy alcohol, to consume in your hotel room for example, you’ll need to head to the Systembolaget, which you’ll know if you’ve visited Sweden before. The government have a monopoly on alcohol in Sweden, for a number of reasons which I won’t go into, but you’ll need to plan ahead and don’t forget your ID. To keep costs down try find a hotel which includes breakfast. Chances are you’re going to be very busy over the two days so don’t forget to eat, because you don’t want to be choosing between a halloumi burger or seeing the band you’re most excited for halfway through the night.
At about 135km southwest of Stockholm, Norrköping is reachable by either Stockholm Arlanda Airport (200km) or Stockholm Skavasta (62km) with flight times around the two hour mark.
Arlanda, Stockholm and Sweden’s main international airport, serves 181 destinations including direct flights to and from Manchester (Norwegian, Scandinavian), Edinburgh (Norwegian, Scandinavian), London Heathrow (British Airways, Scandinavian) and Gatwick (Norwegian) airports. From later this year Monarch will be flying to and from Birmingham, Manchester and London Luton, with EasyJet flights also available from the latter. To get from Arlanda to Norrköping the cheapest way is by bus, tickets for the Flygbussarna can be purchased online in advance or at the airport on arrival, with a journey time of two hours. Train tickets are more expensive, but will only take around
If you’re coming from the UK then your cheapest option will probably be a flight to Stockholm Skavsta from London Stansted operated by RyanAir. From Skavsta the only option really is to take the Flygbussarna with a shorter journey time of
Norrköping has plenty of hotels which aren’t too pricey and will offer you a nice comfortable stay while you’re at the festival. Delegate accommodation is available at the Elite Grand Hotel, Best Western Princess Hotel and the Scandic City Hotel – all of which are within walking distance of the venues, conference centre, train and bus stations.
If you’re planning your trip on your own then the festival recommend getting in touch with local travel agency Upplev Norrköping to help with your quest for accommodation. As Norrköping is pretty small there aren’t that many airbnb listings for the city, plus to make your stay easier and probably cheaper it might be more worth it to stay in a hotel or hostel to ensure that central location.
If you’re looking to save money then keep an eye on the festival’s FAQ page on their website as this year the Comfort Hotel in the city centre were offering a 10% discount to festival goers who booked using the code: WTM17.
Focused around an article, written by the panel’s moderator Jan Gradvall, about Chance The Rapper and the success he has achieved without a traditional record label – the discussion was centred around the role of a record label in 2017 and that despite Chance The Rapper’s impressive career trajectory, his label-less project employs a large team who function in the same way a major label would. Panelists included Jessica Strassman from Columbia Records, Ruth Barlow from Beggars Group, Daggan Stamenkovic from Phonofile and Adam Börjesson from Jubel AB.
This panel specifically looked at the relationship between Sweden and Norway within Scandinavia and the Nordic region, with Babak Azarmi of RMH (Sweden) and Marius Solberg of YLTV (Norway) discussing how they have helped each other’s projects in their respective territories. An insightful talk which was full of context and anecdotes about working together across borders and a discussion around the Nordic region’s need to continue to work together to break artists here, before they set their sights on international markets. Taking Swedish artists to support Norwegian artists on their tours and vice versa initially the first way which the pair worked together and also having their artists collaborate on remixes and guests verses on each other’s releases. They link part of the growing crossover between Norwegian and Swedish artists’ fanbase to the growth of social media and how, while still different, the youth growing up in Oslo and Sweden, for example, have a lot more in common than they may have done a mere ten years ago.
Bringing together women from across the music industry, this panel’s aim was to discuss equality with a specific focus on the lack of representation women appear to have in the world of music production. Moderated by Kristina Lidehorn of PRMD the panel included a variety of people from different backgrounds. On the panel was Jill Hollywood, found of Echo Management who manage a number of prolific producers, Ida Redig, a Swedish artist and producer, Anna Ingler of the Upfront Producer Network, a network which began to try and disrupt the male dominance seen in the production profession, and Cindy Lee of Popkollo, an initiative creating a platform for women and transgender producers. Discussion here ranged from more general discussion of sexism in the industry, to why the panel members thought men dominated the industry. Each panel member gave a close remark and the one which has stuck with me was Hollywood’s regarding the growing availability of technology, the increasing ease to share your work online and that like any profession hard work and talent are the basic requirements for success.
Moderated by Nikoo Sadr of The Orchard, the panel simply titled “Playlisting” probably should’ve been split into at least two different talks, but that’s a positive with so much to discuss this panel was engaging and insightful throughout. The panel was composed of streaming experts from across Europe, Lucie Watson from Platoon, Nanna Lindhart Hansen from Deezer, Justin Barker from PIAS and Carlos Lopez Casany co-founder of Indiemono. With a range of topics covered and multiple questions answered fielded from streaming novices to those more in the know, hopefully next year at the platform there will be the chance for more panels about both playlisting and the streaming industry in general.
With her debut single “Paper Paper” released the day before her set, Iranian-Norwegian singer-songwriter Amanda Delara brought her refreshingly different sound to the stage. Delara’s performance had been one of those happy coincidences you sometimes get at these kind of festivals. We were waiting around in the venue ready to head to the next band on our list, but she took to the stage and we were struck by her soulful vocal and sparse electronic beats, we had to stay.
Saturday night became the night of the scandi-pop heavyweights with Anna of the North taking the title of the favourite thing we saw over the weekend. Their expertly produced pop songs and instantly repeatable hooks plus Anna’s growing confidence on stage were a real treat. New track, which is probably called, “Movin’ On” is another huge sparkling mid-tempo synth drenched masterpiece. But the highlight has to be “Us”, because there really is something so special about Anna of the North.
Hotly tipped by everyone who’s anyone in the Norwegian music industry, up until the release of latest single “Childhood Dreams” you could’ve been forgiven for overlooking Ary and her laidback synth style, but her live set is packed full of some of the biggest pop songs you’ll hear all year. The mid-set drop of “Childhood Dreams” was certainly a turning point, but set closer a reworked version of early single “The Sea” is the real game changer. ARY certainly has the songs to live up to the hype, so now it’s surely just a matter of time before her big breakthrough.
The golden boy of Swedish rap crew RMH (Silvana Iman, Cherrie) and Grammis award winner, Erik Lundin knows how to put on a show. His second set of the festival and his headline set saw him pull out all the stops with a solo performance complete with an impressive light show. While not understanding a word, Lundin’s flow paired with the beat and the crowd’s almost ravenous appetite for the music I think really sums up what this festival is all about. Wherever you’re from, whatever languages you speak or don’t speak, music and the Scandinavian music showcased here has a power and precedent to make you really believe it.
Myrkur is the stage name of Danish musician Amalie Brunn and her one-woman black metal project. Black metal sounds scary, especially if you’re used to your scandi-pop being laced with huge melodies and glacial synths, but Brunn’s performance was simply stunning. With her Susanne Sundfør style vocal floating over live strings and some pretty heavy rock music, this contrast between light and dark made for a mesmerising set.
Copenhagen three-piece off bloom are one of the most exciting pop prospects in the world right now, all thanks to the huge title track of their debut EP Love To Hate It. Their live set is a spectacle, even at this early stage in their career with frontwoman Mette performing like her life depends on it. It’s latest single “Falcon Eye”, then unreleased, which stands out with its all-important call to arms “shake it like you want it all” ready to command everyone to dance.
Up there in our top three favourite things we saw this year at Where’s The Music is Sweden’s very own Rein. Responsible for merging candied hooks with electro-pop beats and a uniquely punk attitude, if you want something to hear something or see something different live get yourself to a show. Beckoning up to spell out “capitalism” in her set closer which has a clever acrostic-style pre-chorus, she then reprises the kick-ass tune following a rave reception from the crowd in Dynamo. We could’ve stayed there all night going crazy for that one song.
“I’m a wolf howling in the moonlight, calling out” Skott’s voice soars as finishes her set at Värmekyrkan. Just one of the four singles the Swedish singer-songwriter (pictured atop) has released, Skott’s profile has been growing all over the world and here in the UK at a pretty similar rate to her homeland of Sweden. With new music tightly under wraps, but ready for release Skott’s live vocal is really something to witness, especially the times where the strips back the instrumentation performing almost a capella. Skott makes the kind of pop music that tells a story and takes you on a journey, whether that’s through the ocean on “Blue” or through a dark, enchanted forest on “Amelia”.
Soleima’s sultry post-Drake R&B draws a decent crowd which include fellow Danes off bloom who’d performed only half an hour earlier at a venue a mere five minute walk away. Blasting through her catalogue of tracks old and new, “Cracks” is solid live as are her vocals. A particular highlight of the Soleima set comes from a sax solo, sax solos and pop music are a winning combination and last year’s “Wasted” is still the slinky summer jam it’s always been.