Industry Talk: Andreas Meland of Hubro Music

10 years ago, Andreas Meland started the independent jazz label HUBRO. Since then he has on average released one record a month – even turning down good projects on a weekly basis. We had a chat with him in relation to the current 10-year anniversary.

Skrevet av Rebeca 18.11.2019

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“How did HUBRO come about?”

“I ran a few small record labels myself from my bedroom in my teens and early twenties, before joining Grappa Music Publishing 15 years ago. After having worked as an ECM responsible at Grappa Music Publishing for a few years, I started to really get the urge to manage a label again. I wanted to work even more closely with the artists throughout the process, from the idea to the finished album.

After reflecting about this, I asked my boss Helge Westbye if I could start a jazz label under Grappa. This basically consisted of moving back to Haugesund and set up a small Grappa office there. Helge has given me completely free reins all these years, and he said yes immediately. He is a rare find, and I am very aware of how privileged I have been to have him as my manager all these years.

HUBRO quickly evolved to become something more than a jazz label. Almost all the musicians have some connection to jazz, but in terms of genre the label has spread throughout the whole spectre.”

“What has been the biggest challenge?”

“The challenges have been many, but the joys have always been greater.

Some challenges are more obvious than others, like the music I have fought for and wanted to promote not being the one with the greatest commercial potential. The audience is scattered across the globe, and although there are more and more Hubro fans each year, exports are both expensive and risky. I still believe that it is important to work with reaching the audience that has a genuine interest in this music! Call me a missionary / idiot / idealist! I’m not a pessimist at all, but so far, digitalization has been more destructive than positive for the music I work with. The artists I work with tour more abroad than here in Norway, and without well-promoted records this probably would not have been possible.

Another challenge of course has been time. I am only one hardworking father of three, and the scope of quality music and potential collaborators has been enormous. I have released on average one record a month for the past ten years, that is a lot, but at the same time I have had to turn down good projects on a weekly basis.”

“You currently have a 10-year anniversary, tell us a little about how this is celebrated?”

“I’m in the middle of the celebration right now. My good friends Marthe and Emilie from Vibe Agency work with some of the same artists as me, and for this occasion they were able to organize label nights in Rotterdam, Berlin, London and Paris, with three trios: Erlend Apneseth Trio, Building Instrument and Bushman’s Revenge. We came home one week ago and I’m still smiling. It was one week of very fine concerts and enthusiastic audiences. Additionally we were able to meet with old and new contacts: distributors, PR agents, festival organizers, booking agents and journalists. I ordered cakes for all of the concerts, so we got to celebrate HUBRO together with the audience and contacts, in a real Western Norway (vestlandsk) kind of way!

On Saturday, I celebrated the anniversary at home in Haugesund in combination with the release party for Lumen Drones’ new album in a prayer house in which that the band is practicing. It was packed, and the atmosphere was amazing. Next weekend the celebrations continues with label night at the National Jazz Scene (Oslo), Blå (Oslo) and Landmark (Bergen).”

“How do you perceive the interest in the type of music that Hubro releases changing over these years?”

“It varies a bit from release to release of course, but in it seems like the interest is rising, both with the press, at festivals and the audience. The fact that, within a few days, I had 6 artists on the program at one of the country’s biggest jazz festivals this summer, is something I never could have imagined a few years ago.”

“How has the response to Hubro Label nights been in Europe so far?”

“The response was really good, especially in the major cities. Although there is great competition, the concerts were well attended, and we are left with a feeling that the expectations were truly met.”

“What are the benefits of being an independent label?”

“The main benefit to me has been that I have had complete freedom to follow my gut feeling and my interests. I have simply had the opportunity to do things that I think are important, more than being guided by what is wise or reasonable. Not saying any bad words about following reason, but to be run by something you love and think is important has been very valuable to me. But I would also argue that it has been very valuable to the whole field I have been working with. The fact that I have been given that opportunity has had major ripple effects I think.”

“What is the most important piece of advice you have ever received?”

“Good advices are valued, but the best way to learn is to make mistakes. The people I am surrounded by have not given me much advice, but I have always received support and comfort when needed.”