Industry Talk: Simon Füllemann
Simon Füllemann is the CEO of AISAmusic gmbh & By Norse AS, and has worked closely with Wardruna for over a decade. According to Füllemann, a mix of key factors and hard work throughout the years has led Wardruna, with composer Einar Selvik in the lead, to vast worldwide success, with impressive chart placements as well as sync licensing in popular TV-shows and games.
Written by Tina Brodal 07.04.2021
"Tell us about yourself and your way into the music industry to where you are now?"
– I started out with playing in band since 1989 and had my first company mid 90ies. After I stopped playing music around 2006, I went my own way. I had my own company in Norway since 2010 that was called All Access Agency and before it was called Image-In between 2006 and 2010. Those were consulting companies basically. I was very focused on helping intellectual property owners to keep it in their hands. Especially starting around the beginning of 2014, I saw how the digital world impacts PR, distribution, sales, etc. Not only for labels. Especially in the US. I could see that what was happening is that the bigger players will get the bigger pieces and smaller companies will be left with crumbs. Look at how it went over the past four to five years. At the same time I worked at Indie Recordings and we hired Luis Alvarenga to run the US office. So when he left and I left, it was natural to expand All Access Agency under a new name into the US also. Based on my studies and findings over the two previous years, it was natural to me to put the intellectual property thinking into a new costume, so to say, and widen out the services to distribution, management, D2C etc.
My other company, By Norse, sprung out of an idea of doing our own showcases and releases. Originally, the simple idea was to present our own bands on showcases all around the globe the way we want them to be presented. Keep it all in our hands. We had the vision to start out in London first. And so we did a three-day event that was super successful, followed by NY and Oslo. At the same time, Ivar wanted to release ‘Vikingligr Veldi’ on vinyl by himself and Einar and I discussed doing the next Wardruna album ourselves. Having led and worked for many labels in my life, it was a no-brainer to start doing that with the right distro and PR partners on board. We just went for it – and here we are.
"How did you begin to work with Wardruna?"
– We connected after I moved to Norway in 2010. I started working with Wardruna closely from a label side first when I worked for INDIE RECORDINGS. I was a huge fan before since the GaP release. So to me, this was just so fantastic to have this opportunity. One of the reasons behind moving to Norway was doing exactly this. We somehow just clicked and had a good relationship from the get go..You know when you meet people and it just works? Ideas, visions, aims, on a personal level and values. It all just fell into place. It was magic basically. We are a good team.
"Upon release, the latest album “Kvitravn" made it as the no1 worldwide albums on iTunes, #2 on the German official chart, as well as many other significant chart positions worldwide. Could you tell us a bit about how you strategically worked with the album release as well as how this was accomplished?"
– That is part of the Morning Coffee on Thursday and you should join us! :)… Well, it all started in 2009 when Wardruna released its first album. That's where you need to find the roots of the success. The success of Wardruna is unlike any other group and especially different from pop groups. It's rooted, down to earth, patiently grown over years with dedication and honesty. The best case is a case like Wardruna where the founder and leader has a vision that is so strong, that you just need to enhance it basically. Step by step, we built this to where it is now. It was a long way and still is. So to explain particulars would take me hours. Key factors are the right partners, patience and great music/lyrics/identiy. Another key factor was TV, Game and teaming up with a major. These key factors pushed Wardruna into the commercial world so to speak.
So, strategically we worked this very hard for like 7-8 years now. We started building on expanding by playing live more often while launching our own label By Norse where we arranged showcases in London, NY and Oslo. We self-released and worked the 3rd album too. It was very successful. Its pre-sale launch also saw the expansion of the D2C arm of it with launching a US and EU store beside the Norwegian store. Then TV came into the picture and Einar being an actor. Shortly after we started touring even more intensively. Which is still very selected in Wardruna terms but it did a lot for us. With nearly all venues being sold out - 900-3000 cap - and lots of sold records, YouTube play as well as streams, we attracted the interest of bigger labels. We selected over a period of over 1 years very carefully what we do and whom we align us with. Sony was the right choice and this is where we are now.
"Key factors are the right partners, patience and great music/lyrics/identiy. Another key factor was TV, Game and teaming up with a major. These key factors pushed Wardruna into the commercial world so to speak."
"Wardruna’s music has had placements both in TV shows like “Vikings” as well as video games like “Assasins Creed Valhalla”. How do you work with sync licensing and placements in TV Shows and games?"
– That is part of what our partner BMG does. At the beginning, it started again all with great music and Einar Selvik. Its a mix of luck and hard work. To come into the position to attract the right publishing partner is what I would advise to do.
"Do you have any advice for people wanting to work actively with sync licensing, or in general when it comes to strategic work with music?"
– Well, it all starts with creating unique music and an identity that is real, true or the total opposite plus having a good agent for sync. Other than that you need a lot of luck to find your way into the sync world. Its a long way or a lucky shot in the end. In all the years I have not found a bullet proof recipe on how to get sync.
Most of the times it's either you know someone, you are lucky since your music fits what they look for or a film maker is a fan of what you do.
Did you miss out on "Morning Coffee With The Nordics - Wardruna"? Watch it on YouTube here.