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volume 2
july 1999

The non-profit music organization in partnership with the commercial field


  The Finnish Music Information Centre (MIC)
  by Jari Muikku
  In September 1996 the European Music Office published its report on "Music in Europe". The second part of this study was titled "Music, Culture and Society in Europe" and edited by Paul Rutten. It contains six critical essays and five case studies on the cultural value of music in the European Union. This case study on the Finnish Music Information Centre was written for the occasion by Jari Muikku.
  The Finnish Music Information Centre (Finnish MIC) serves clients professionally involved in the field of music and is maintained by the Finnish Composers' Copyright Society (Teosto). Its aim is to promote the use of Finnish music both at home and abroad, covering all genres of music from rock to classical.

1 The musical life and infrastructure of each of the countries in Europe reflect, on a smaller scale, the prevailing social order and values. The special features of each country are also influenced by the cultural heritage, its geographical distribution, and the volume of the nation's culture economy. All the countries of Europe do, however, share a broad field of national music organizations seeking to put certain goals into practice and to further the interests of various groups.
  Being a country with a lively interest in music, Finland has a large number of music organizations in proportion to its population of 5.1 million. These organizations clearly fall into two categories, professional and amateur, and further into soundcarrier producers, composers, musicians, publishers and other such interest groups. Then in a class of their own are the organizations representing various aspects of music. Those directly linked with the music industry are little affected by the government's music policy, since they are financed mainly out of funds generated by the music industry itself. The amateur field, by contrast, is highly dependent on the grants decisions made by the Ministry of Culture.
2 I have been working at the Finnish Music Information Centre (MIC), an organization maintained by the music industry itself, since 1989. My field at MIC is light music production, and I have in the course of my work had a good vantage point for surveying both national and international music life.
  MIC was founded in 1963. Its aim is to make all kinds of Finnish music known both at home and abroad, and in particular to create opportunities for the performance of Finnish compositions. MIC is backed by the composer and publisher organizations and is chiefly financed by the Composers' International Copyright Bureau, Teosto. Only a few per cent of our funds come from the government's annual budget, so rather than being an extension of the official music policy, MIC is an organization committed to achieving the shared visions of composers and publishers.
3 More than 30 countries all over the world have a national music information centre similar to ours, but the roles of these centres differ greatly according to the situation in each country. Among the "biggest and best" are the Nordic MIC's, which also cover the field of "light" music. The majority of the MIC's are smallish units concentrating on the documentation and promotion of contemporary music.
  MIC has assumed an active role in Finnish musical life. In the classical music domain we are a major sponsor, expert, and agent for printed music, and in the light music domain MIC publishes basic promotion material on various genres, tries to develop the international network and co-ordinates joint projects for the export of Finnish music. Our main partners comprise both individual composers, artists and ensembles, and the professional organizations and undertakings representing them; our export efforts have in the past few years also received support from the Finnish Foreign Trade Association. In our work we try to avoid overlapping with commercial enterprise.
4 Culture and economics are often two sides of an impossible equation in music — as indeed in all the arts — and there is a similar imbalance inherent in the objectives of the official government music policies and the economic realities. In this respect the active organizations are ideally placed to solve these conflicts, or at least to alleviate them. In order to do this, they must be in possession of two main assets: all-round expertise and credibility in the eyes of all involved. The music organization must be capable of evaluating objectively — but without reducing everything to the same level — the quality of music, its suitability for various purposes and its commercial potential in its own sector.
  This system has the advantage that the individual artist in need of advice or guidance can turn to an expert who has no financial interests of his own and is able to come up with various alternative suggestions. Then as regards commercial interests, the music organization is able to act as a central force co-ordinating projects and acting as a spokesman for the field in dialogue with the government and other external bodies.
5 The European music organization of today is thus expected to display the highest degree of objectivity ("complete" is impossible in the arts) and an ability to market its services in all quarters of cultural life in a way that enhances its credibility. These criteria apply equally well at national level and in international partnerships. Various forms of networking can be established between music organizations, such as joint marketing projects and the exchange of information on special features and leading contacts in different market areas in order to benefit both the international markets and individual artists and companies.
  It will in the future be increasingly important for the European music organizations to strengthen their positions in their own countries and then to be increasingly active in seeking international partnerships with similar organizations and the commercial sector. And here, if anywhere, the organizations will truly be called upon to examine in a completely new light their former, inward-looking policies and sometimes even their observance of "official" ways of operating that in fact serve no real purpose.
6 As an example, let me tell you about Finland's Music Information Centre and our dealings with our sister organizations in the other Nordic countries. We have been trying, and with some success, to achieve a degree of synergy with the commercial music undertakings, communicating on an equal footing despite our different backgrounds. As a result we have (for example, by means of joint decisions on sponsorship) been able to influence the production policy of the record companies and especially more marginal productions of great national and international significance. Likewise, the record companies understand our views better and can adapt their production and promotion so as to derive the maximum benefit from the services we can offer them.
  The Nordic MIC's have been working together for years. In this they have been helped by the relative structural and ideological homogeneity of their organizations (as indeed of their social systems and values) and by the fact that the Nordic countries form a single cultural-geographical entity. We have held many joint promotion campaigns in light and classical music alike, both in Europe and elsewhere. The advantage here has been that instead of each having to be content with humble efforts and results, we have, by joining forces, achieved conspicuous results. This has benefited both the individual countries and the region as a whole.
7 Networking such as this may serve as an excellent example for European co-operation on a broader scale, whether the aim be, say, to strengthen the position of European folk music on the domestic markets or to market European jazz to Australia. Any country that feels it would benefit from operations of this kind would be welcome to join in such projects. The right framework and forms must, of course, always be found for such joint ventures to avoid the danger of doing things merely for the sake of it. Winning the networking commitment of the commercial interests is of primary importance to ensure that the work done for the promotion of European music does not result in just a temporary splash of publicity but provides the impetus for a steady, continuing trend that will be adopted and carried along by the commercial sector.
  This essay originally appeared in: Rutten, Paul (ed.), Music, culture and society in Europe. Part II of: European Music Office, Music in Europe. Brussels, 1996, 140-142.
  1999 © Soundscapes