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Music export "business"

Written by Tommi on 25.03.2010 12:28:22

Blog image for entry Music export "business" Ah, free money. My favorite type of money.

The export endeavours of the Finnish music industry received a lion's share of the grants provided by The Finnish Ministry of Education for the benefit of Finnish cultural export. This year, the sum was 1 644 000 euros.

That's understandable as with the success of eg. HIM, The Rasmus and Nightwish, the business of exporting music has reached the position of a viable important pillar of the Finnish economy - the knights in shining armor ready to whisk away our gigantic budget deficit now that our forest industry and Nokia are doomed!

...or has it?

Lucky for us, the Internet provides us with enough material to call "bullshit" on this shenanigans! According to the numbers published by Music Export Finland, the amount of export revenue generated by the Finnish music industry in 2008 was... *drumroll* 23.3 million euros.

I know that number sounds pretty big in the eyes a rookie band trying to rake together a thousand or two to put out their debut album independently, but in the eyes of big business, 23.3 million is next to nothing. My dayjob is at a pretty irrelevant company in the grand scheme of things and even we export for ca. 1-2 million euros annually, almost 10% of what the music industry generates.

At the same time, exporting music gets ca. 7% of its revenue in a single handout.

So, am I proposing less money to music?

Why do I have a beef with the music industry getting money, even if I'm usually the first person whining about how hard making ends meet in this crapstorm of a business is?

My beef is with how the only way to get money to culture is by masking it in a facade of commercial viability. Let's get real, even if we get a hundred more HIM's and the existing ones break even bigger, the revenues will still be totally irrelevant compared to "real" business, like the forest industry or telecom. This is not a Napoleon complex, just a healthy dose of reality.

1,64 million euros is a whole lot of money from the perspective of all the square one bands out there just trying to score a steady rehearsal space and to put some sort of semi-professional recording together. You could literally fund hundreds of bands into a flying start with that money.

Still, while the commercially doomed efforts are being supported with sums like that, state-funded rehearsal spaces and low-cost junior studios are being taken down in Helsinki and elsewhere around Finland. Scoring a rehearsal space at a reasonable rate is insanely difficult and getting to go to a real studio the privilege of the better-off.

Unfortunately I could not find the lists of export support beneficiaries online (what's up with this Esek and Luses?!) - this is the closest I got. The lists of beneficiaries have traditionally been pretty grim reading. Sure, they've given even us a few grants (I think Echo Is Your Love and Hero Dishonest have gotten a grand each so I'm not complaining we ain't getting ours), but the bulk of the money goes to already established acts that usually are more from the commercial than the artistic side of things. Not that I really care about as I do to some degree believe that even art should be validated by audience demand, but it still sends a very clear message: we only support projects that make this appear to be more of a business than it really is.

But even this is not my beef. I don't care who gets the money in the end. I care about the rationale behind the money and I think that currently it's wrong.

You can get the (very much public) lists of beneficiaries by asking them from Esek and Luses directly.

So what?

My point in all this is: forget the business side. This thing is not going to turn into a viable business, so let's stop justifying things with that. Culture should be a value in itself and even though that fits badly into return-on-investment calculations, the numbers achieved so far with music look simply ridiculous. If 1,6 million goes in as grants and 23,3 million comes out as revenue (yep, that's revenue, not profit), something is wrong.

Support music - the culture, not music - the business.
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