Industry Talk: Phonofile’s Trond Tornes

Our Industry Insider series continues with key Scandinavian digital distributor Phonofile’s Marketing Manager Trond Tornes. Read on to learn more on where the booming Scandinavian music streaming market might be heading.

Skrevet av Rebeca 23.10.2014

Trond Tornesedit

(Update: Tornes left Phonofile in 2018 for consultancy company Svalbard United)

Phonofile is one of Scandinavia’s key digital distributors, having been a key player since its foundation back in 1999. We’ve had a chat with the company’s Marketing Manager Trond Tornes on his forecasts for Scandinavia’s booming streaming market, development trends in the region as well as his personal live and recorded music favourites.

– You have just completed a stint, lecturing at the New York University – could you recap how this went down with the students? What can Phonofile teach US university students?

– Me and my Phonofile colleague Mona Fimreite have both done one tenure each, lecturing at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute on Manhattan. This comes as a result of a collaboration between the Hedmark University College and the Clive Davis Institute. I did a night where I spoke about the history behind audio compression and sound recording, how the world of the record companies has evolved since its inception and how digital music distribution has challenged and developed the industry. I also talked about the transition between the different music formats from vinyl to cassette to CD to download and streaming back to vinyl as merch. I also focused on corollary sound recording effects and touched upon how radio once presented the music industry with great challenges. Mona did two evening talks on advanced online marketing, tools & best practice as well as marketing to digital music stores.

Over the last years, much has been written on Norwegian and Swedish music markets and their transition to a streaming-based, all-digital marketplace that is showing considerable growth. If we take a look into the crystal ball and try to predict the development trends on the Norwegian market in the coming months, what development do you foresee will take place? Will we see hi-fi streaming take off, more emphasis on a convergence of editorial content and video services or other trends emerging?

– A very central and interesting question. Since the birth of digital sales, we have just seen growth. IFPI’s sales figures from the first half of 2013 vs. 2014 shows an increase of overall digital sales from 77% to 88%. Streaming is still the driving factor in sales growth. We have seen some signs that could indicate a leveling off in both formats as well as some markets, but it is too early to say whether we’ve reached the peak. Personally, I think we can expect further growth – mostly because I anticipate that we will see a better public understanding of the services, better product development and improved sales of music in the time to come.

– A possible user-centric model would also probably lead to a greater artist-fan relationship, which can also lead to further growth in several points of contact between artist and fans. Another factor we need to address is that of a too-low domestic percentage of the market – we need to bring up Norwegian repertoire’s stake of the market.

– When it comes to video, many people believe that this is one of the fields of growth in the future. I share the belief this from a consumer perspective, but I think the music industry and the major stake holders have some way to go in terms of understanding the music market drivers and the Indies’ oft-underestimated importance in relation to innovation and development. In my view, the need for editorial context will grow exponentially in sync with the actual number of people who will have access to almost all music recorded. There remains a lot of work to do and we will certainly witness many exciting solutions featuring combinations of technology and people who understand both the music and the audience as well as totally new products that the audience could be willing to pay for.

Given Phonofile’s position on the Norwegian market, how do you view the situation of Norwegian content’s streaming market share? Many have argued that it is too low – what’s your take on how to strengthen the market share?– Phonofile is in a special situation in that we have so much Norwegian content and consequentially a naturally high domestic percentage. However, the challenge is still there, and I believe that there is a thorough understanding across the industry that we have work together to help increase Norwegian repertoire’s market share. I feel that there’s a lot of good talent out there and many strong productions underway at home and that the industry is blessed some sharp minds. I hope that we can manage to motivate the media into showcasing new Norwegian talent that is not labelled as tabloid, but rather appeals to the needs of smart readers.

– What are the main international priorities for Phonofile this autumn and winter?

– On the content side, we have extended our support to our labels in Sweden and Denmark, while sales-wise we have already gained some solid experience in digital marketing – not only in Norway but also in key markets in and outside of the region. This is a relatively new project for us, but we can already see the outline of what we think might work well in major international markets. Similarly, we have started several campaigns with US-focused services, which seems promising as the market there is moving steadily towards digital.

– What Norwegian releases figure on your own playlists? Any personal favourites that you would want to share?– Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz & Dan Berglund – a trio we’ve focused on in many major territories outside of the Nordics. On the more rockish side of things, I still get a massive kick listening to Spidergawd, plus some fantastic new Lars Vaular tracks. A bit schizo, yes – but a lot of input is one of the benefits that come with the job when your line of work is distribution. I also have to highlight, even if they’re not Norwegian, Model 500’s new recording on Juan’s own Metroplex label that we’re releasing soon.

– Any upcoming Norwegian releases that you have faith in?– I have massive faith in Lars Vaular’s new tracks – you’ll have to go back to the age-old Snorre sagas to find equal lyric artistry and original language definitions.

– Any concerts with Norwegian bands or performers coming up this autumn that you just have to see?– I’ll definitely catch some shows during the Oslo World Music Festival. I live dangerously close to (Oslo venues) Revolver and Blå, so there’s not much stopping me from going to gigs with such acts as John Doe and Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit. There’s also a Tyrannosaurus party coming up that I won’t miss. I got to see Lindstrøm live when I visited NYC recently – needless to say, it was just awesome.

Phonofile works worldwide with delivering music to key digital music stores such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Wimp, Google, Beatport, Juno Download, Traxsource and other niche and DJ stores. Outside of the main offices in the Nordic countries, Phonofile also works with music from Serbia/Balkan, Balticum, Ghana, South Africa, the Arabic world and for some selected labels in the US and the UK.