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Norwegian music industry’s export facilitator and promotional organisation.

Industry Talk: Manbir Plaha

By Johanna Alem Posted: 22. Mar, 2018

Photo by: Michael Ray Vera Cruz Angeles

Meet Manbir Plaha, Project & Promotion Manager at Universal Music Norway, who recently joined the launch of Def Jam Recordings Norway.

Manbir Singh Plaha used his network and passion for music as a key to enter the Norwegian music industry less than three years ago. Since then, he has been working with artists like Seeb, Broiler, Sonny Alven, Bernhoft, Freddy Kalas, Adam Ezzari and Hkeem, who recently won «Song of The Year» at the Norwegian Grammy’s. Together with Marie Komissar and Bjørn Rogstad at Universal Music Norway, he recently joined the launch of urban and legendary label Def Jam Recordings in Norway, due to the fast growth of the urban music scene in Norway.

What has been your focus lately?
My focus lately has been to look for new methods to promote our artists at Universal Music and Def Jam Recordings. As a Promotion Manager I´m always looking for new influencers, bloggers, and YouTubers to work with on projects that both parties involved can gain from. We recently launched Def Jam Recordings Norway, so the main focus has been on building up and developing the artist roster: Hkeem, Jonas B, Adam Ezzari, Linda Vidala, Onkl P. It’s important for us that Def Jam remains and upholds the strong brand it has built throughout the years. We constantly filtrate the artists that we sign to the label.

The most important piece of advice you have ever received?
My boss Bjørn Rogstad gave me a great piece of advice when I first started working at UMN: «Don’t be afraid to fail. Just try, fail and only then you will learn». Ever since that day, I have not been afraid to try new things. If I try, and fail, I will then know not to do it again. It’s an important lesson for everyone and it can be applied to all aspects of life, whether it be business or personal. If you never try, you willnever know.

Your best industry-tip?
Networking is key. You should always network. Go to concerts and events. Don’t be shy to get to know new people in any type of industry, whether it be the music industry or a car dealership. One day you might end up working with that person in one way or another. This is something I´ve practiced for a long time, I live and breathe for this. Without my network I wouldn´t have ended up where I am today, it’s important to build bridges and to maintain relationships in this industry.

What’s your golden moment to share with the rest of us?
When Hkeem climbed to number 1 on the Spotify lists in Norway with the song «Fy Faen». It’s been a short journey from when I found him on YouTube the fall of 2016. I reached out and asked for a demo, he sent me a ruff demo of «Fy Faen» which I sent to Marie Komissar and Bjørn Rogstad at the A&R department, the team then ended up singning him and releasing his debut single on our label March 2017.

Hkeem recently won the Norwegian Grammy for «Song of The Year». It’s a huge honor for me to have been a part of this journey from day one. It’s a project that I’m very passionate about because he is from Stovner, a part of Oslo that I’m also from. He is a minority that represents the new generation, and an artist that paints a positive picture of an area that often is negatively publicized in the news. Hkeem has a very important voice to share with his young fans. It was also very exciting for me to see my visions and ideas come to life on the stage at the Norwegian Grammy’s where Hkeem performed the song «Ghettoparasitt».

Why Norway, why now?
Norway is boomin! Norwegian music is expanding across the borders and people in Sweden and Denmark are looking at us. We have urban acts like Hkeem, Jonas Benyoub, Linda Vidala and Adam Ezzari. Urban music is a universal language, and the language barrier doesn’tnecessarily mean that it can’t have an international reach. It’s all about the vibe. Recently we’ve seen that Norwegian artists make music that hits and reaches audiences from other countries. Several Norwegian urban artists are daring to cross the borders to make music and get inspiration in Sweden and Denmark. For Bjørn Rogstad, Marie Komissar and myself at Def Jam Recordings Norway, urban music lies very close to our hearts.

Who in the Norwegian music industry deserves a high five?
I want to give a huge high five to Ali Wali from Nora Collective. Ali gave me the opportunity to come along during festivals and events where some of his artists played from early on, where I had the chance to experience the music business behind the scenes. Because of this, my network expanded, as well as it allowed me to be able to exchange ideas with his team for their projects, long before I entered the industry. I learned a lot from him and the way he built himself from the ground up. He inspired me to keep the hustle going. I also want to high five Yosef from Madcon, Chirag from Karpe Diem and Michael Ray Vera Cruz Angeles (akam1k3) for all the inspiration, advice, love and motivational words while I was unemployed to push me in the right direction. Thank you!

Last but not least, I truly appreciate people who uplift each other, who give a pat on the back after a job well done, and everyone who gives individuals with potential a shot in this industry.

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