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Industry Talk: Yonas Aregai

By Johanna Alem Posted: 23. Nov, 2017

Yonas Aregai

Meet Yonas Aregai from MER, a record label, management and publishing company that represents artists such as Alan Walker, Mood Melodies (Anders Frøen), Paperboys and Timbuktu.

Yonas Aregai got his first introduction to the music industry at the age of 17, at that point managing break-out rapper Kaveh during his uprising and break-through in the Norwegian rap scene. The now 24-year-old Oslo native went on to fill the role as a production manager at music company MER from early 2013, working with artists such as Lars Vaular, Timbuktu, Vinni, Sandra Lyng, Tommy Tee and more. Simultaneously, he completed his BA in marketing management at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, and University of California in Berkeley. Upon returning from the United States in 2016, Yonas re-joined MER, now in an expanded role as manager and partner alongside founders Gunnar Greve and Gilbert Lunde. The MER organization is based in Oslo and consists of a management firm, record label, publishing company and music studio.

What has been your focus lately?
Lately, the focus has been to further build the careers of our diverse roster of talents, in addition to developing the MER organization as a whole. We’ve recently built a new studio complex consisting of 8 studios in the centre of Oslo, as well as establishing our publishing company.

With a long term perspective in mind, we’re very excited about the ambition of creating a hub and environment for creating music on a high international level. A lot of the most talented creatives in the country often emigrate (at least temporarily) to other music metropoles in the US or elsewhere, in order to work with the biggest artists around. Although I can understand the arguments for doing so, we don’t see any reason as to why we can’t attract those top-shelf names here, consequently making sure that the value growth also benefits the industry here in Norway. We want to place Oslo on the map and list of destinations in the same way that i.e. London, Stockholm and Berlin has managed to do so for artists, writers and industry executives alike.

The most important advice you have ever received?
I firmly believe that talent only makes up a fraction of the entire package for an artist, and that hard work, dedication, integrity and consistency does the rest of the work. Someone told me that early on when referring to what makes the most successful artists stand out from the crop, and it very much applies to the people outside of the spotlight as well.

Another advice, which might seem rather blunt, is to take the time to cherish the moments that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. I tend to forget that from time to time, perhaps because I usually just focus on what’s next. But it’s one of the things that I’m often reminded of, especially by my partner Gunnar. “Kos deg i koken” is a saying that is often echoed at our offices.

Your best industry-tip?
It’s a continuation of the advices I just mentioned, and mainly comes down to applying the four pilars of hard work, dedication, integrity and consistency in your work. It may sound like a cliché and somewhat broad, but is especially important in the music industry, because you’re dealing with people. Behind the numbers and stats, it’s still about people committing their lives into creating something that goes beyond themselves. And knowing that they are trusting us with that creation, it’s only fair on them that we mirror that level of commitment. I believe these pilars are the main ingredients that will ensure longevity for both creators and others in the industry. Because at the end of the day, your reputation does precede you, in so many ways.

What’s your golden moment to share with the rest of us?
I haven’t been around in the music industry for ages, so I like to think that the majority of golden moments are further down the line. However, it wouldn’t make sense to not mention the success of Alan Walker, as I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve been a part of. This spring, only one year (on the day) after his debut live performance, I witnessed him enchant a crowd of 80 000 people in Mexico City at the age of 19, and it amazed me. It seems like he reaches new milestones and accolades on a weekly basis, and something tells me he has only scratched the surface of his potential.

Why Norway, why now?
I think that’s multifaceted. Firstly, the music coming out of Norway is viewed as both exotic and refreshing, especially when looking at it from a US or UK standpoint (or any of the traditionally major music markets, for that matter).

Also, I believe a lot of people look to Norway and the Nordics in terms of how the mechanisms around the music are evolving, in addition to the music itself. Norwegians are typically early adapters of new consumer behaviour, and the same goes for the music industry here. So when people elsewhere saw that the Norwegian music industry was one of the early markets to embrace a new day and age with streaming services as the main source of music consumption, and it even began to show signs of sustainability, we quickly caught the attention and interest from other markets. And the domino effect throughout other parts of the world is a testament to that.

However, once other territories, with immensely larger volume than the Norwegian music industry begin to catch up, it’s not a given that we’ll manage to entertain the attention and interest of the rest of the world for much longer. Which is why it’s important for us to utilize the momentum that we have for now. We’ve already begun to see signs that Latin America might be the next focal area for the music industry, and Asia has barely shown any of its enormous potential yet. But things are moving very quickly in the far east.

Who in the Norwegian music industry deserves a high five?
Everyone who thinks outside the box and pushes the envelope in terms of what’s possible to achieve when starting out in Norway. It might be easy to lean back in such good times, so anyone who does the opposite deserves a high five. Luckily, im surrounded by a few of those people at MER, who are all incredibly talented, ambitious and driven.

If I am to point out someone specific, I’d also like to give a high five to Amanda Delara, who is not only incredibly talented but also very aware of the responsibility and weight in which her voice carries. Shoutout to her, I’m hoping to see her reach her full potential in the time to come.

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