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Finnish rock, pop and jazz wooing listeners in central Europe

Finnish music exports have been growing steadily throughout this decade, including sales, live performances and songwriting credits.

Alma.
At 20, Alma is one of the brightest hopes for Finnish pop exports. Image: Outi Kuitunen / Yle

The industry's umbrella organisation, Music Finland, pegs the value of last year's exports at 46.5 million euros. That represents brisk growth of eight percent from 2014.

The most internationally-successful Finnish acts are still the rock-pop bands Nightwish and Sunrise Avenue, but there are plenty of new names poised to break through, says Music Finland CEO Tuomo Tähtinen. He tells Yle that the growth in music exports is a result of methodical investments and planning in the sector.

"We've been arranging international songwriting camps in Finland, for instance. Besides producing music, these have also created contacts. We've expanded our global network and the playing field for Finnish song publishers. And their readiness for this is on a completely different level than, say, 10 years ago."

The organisation gets about 200,000 euros annually from the Ministry of Education and Culture, earmarked to support Finnish artists touring abroad. Tähtinen says this funding has been crucial in opening up international opportunities. The sum is divided into grants for about 20 musicians and groups.

Export campaign paying off

Finnish music has particularly raised its profile in German-speaking parts of Europe in recent years – partly thanks to "Aus Finnland," a two-year campaign by Music Finland that is wrapping up soon. During the project, the group has focused on arranging tours, marketing, communication and taking part in festivals and conferences in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Tähtinen says the campaign has aided the success in these markets of Finnish acts such as 20-year-old pop singer-songwriter Alma, jazz pianist-composer Iiro Rantala, the country-flavoured Steve'n'Seagulls and the Oulu-based indie pop band Satellite Stories.

"Last year Alma took part in the Aus Finnland hip-hop songwriting camp, where she found her Germany partners. At the moment her debut single "Karma" has been streamed 15.2 million times on Spotify. It's the most-played Finnish song besides "Hollywood Hills" by Sunrise Avenue," says Tähtinen.

Satellite Stories, who have been gigging actively in the region, have just released a new single with an album to follow soon. Over the past couple of years, Steve'n'Seagulls has played about 20 shows at major European festivals.

During the same time, pianist Rantala has played about 60 concerts in German-speaking Europe. This year he was nominated for another "Germany Grammy" or Echo Award. He has already won Echo Awards for the best international jazz pianist and the best jazz album. Rantala has been popular in continental Europe since starting out with Trio Töykeät in the late 1980s.

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