Industry Talk: Axel Hyge

Axel Hyge’s journey into the streaming world begun at Spotify in Norway and Sweden, before moving to the US to be part of an American major label. He recently got promoted and has now stepped into the role as Vice President, Streaming Strategy at Warner in Los Angeles.

Skrevet av Tina Brodal 17.11.2020

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“Tell us about yourself and your way into the music industry to where you are now?”

It has been exciting, interesting and full of development. When I started studying music business in England in 2010, the music industry was at one of its lowest points in the streaming revolution.

It has been an exciting journey from starting out working for Warner in Norway, and being part of a record company in the Nordics, where both Spotify and TIDAL (then WiMP) were new on the field, to then take the step into the streaming world with a job at Spotify in both Norway and Sweden. From there on being part of an American major label at the same time that streaming exploded in this market.

“What does a normal day in the office look like for you? What are your tasks / responsibilities?”

Right now, my office is at home in my house in Los Angeles. The mornings usually start with drinking coffee in the garden and getting an update on yesterday’s streaming numbers, chart positions and e-mails that have come from Europe and the rest of the world during the night. Then there are usually a number of video meetings, both internal and external. These can be with everything from managers, streaming services, the artists themselves and internal planning meetings. A lot of time is spent planning upcoming releases and following up on recently released songs and albums.

My responsibilities are currently changing a bit since I have just been promoted to Vice President, Streaming Strategy. Exciting times ahead!

“What are the main differences between the Norwegian and the American music industry?”

The most obvious difference is the size. Everything is bigger here; the budgets, the record companies, the management companies and everything around. This also means greater opportunities, of course.

A by-product of this, I think, is the difference you notice when you start working here. The American industry is much more hierarchical than the Norwegian. It can feel a bit like a culture shock when you first come here, but you quickly get used to it.

“The most obvious difference is the size. Everything is bigger here; The budgets, the record companies, the management companies and everything around. This also means greater opportunities, of course.”

“What do you think will be the trends in the music industry in terms of consumption?”

The trends in the music industry, and especially in the streaming world, are constantly changing. Take TikTok as an example – two years ago no one had imagined the important role they would play in the music world. It’s always hard to know where the trends are going, but I like to think that easier access to music and expanded use of music is a trend that will continue. For example, through voice assistants and smart speakers such as Alexa, Siri, Google Home and the like. Many American cars these days are sold with Alexa built-in. One trend I personally hope will continue is the globalization of the music market, especially on the streaming front. That artists and hits in 2020 can break from Colombia, South Korea and Nigeria testifies that there is a lot of talent and potential hits out there that have not been discovered yet.

“What is your advice to the Norwegian industry and Norwegian practitioners who want to try on the American music market?”

Patience. One must remember that the United States is a very large country with an even more complex music market. It is important to spend as much time as possible here in the place where it happens. I think many proceed a little too fast and try too big or wide too soon. Cultivate the fan base you already have and continue to build and expand the base.

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

I do not know if this is an advice or a kind of philosophy, but it is something I have tried to keep in mind as both motivation and help to make decisions. When I started as a trainee in Warner Norway in 2012, I remember my boss and mentor Jørn Haanæs encouraged me that if I had an idea, go ahead and give it a try – if it did not work or didn’t go the way you had intended, then either way you have acquired more knowledge.