As part of our spotlight on different worldwide territories we speak to music supervisor Nis Bøgvad about the Danish sync licensing market and music industry in general.
Nis Bøgvad is a music supervisor & CEO/Founder of Copenhagen Film Music. He runs the daily operations at Meta Music, SAM Music and is responsible for music departments at several other Scandinavian Film companies. Nis has 27 years of experience as a music professional, and has worked in all aspects of the music business. In 2014, he founded Copenhagen Film Music to secure the film industry’s royalties from music rights. Copenhagen Film Music is also a Scandinavian sub-publisher and manager of international music production catalogues.
Hi Nis, thanks for joining us! How did you first get into the music industry?
I started out playing drums, first in a metal trio and then more radio friendly pop/rock. I was quite strategic as a young musician, so I contacted some recording studios to get into engineering. My goal was to meet someone who had the same professional goals as I did, someone who could make things happen.
In the studio I met a singer-songwriter and we started working on some tracks and soon after we were offered a record deal at EMI. As a duo called ‘Back To Back’, we released 5 albums, toured Scandinavia, sold several platinum awarded records, and produced some tracks with “The System” Mick Murphy and David Frank in New York. We were actually #31 on the US charts with a track co-produced by the legendary Robert Civiles & David Cole released on A&M records USA. That was great fun.
Along the career as an artist/songwriter I kept on producing and mixing. The list of productions is long but to name one I’m proud of, it has to be the first MEW album “A Triumph For Man” – damn that’s a good album.
You went from songwriting/producing and A&R to music supervision, what was the transition?
I have always been curious. Always kept an eye on where things are going and how to make my passion for music a part of the way we all consume it, what are the new platforms etc. Coming from a position as A&R Director at EMI Records and later Head of Media at Music Sales publishing it felt quit natural for me to combine the knowledge from all aspects of the music business, to become a valued part of making Film and TV.
I believe it is crucial for the music industry to collaborate on a partner level with Film and TV. The change in radio formats and the way music in general is consumed makes it important to work with the platforms that actually use and promote music, as Film. It is not an easy task; with motion pictures, two art forms meet. I feel it is a benefit knowing the artist side and the business side by heart. You work with people that are creating a vision, you have to understand and respect your role in the process.
You worked at Danish Broadcaster DR, responsible for shows such as The Bridge and The Killing which have become huge international hits. What was your role there? Has the international popularity of these Scandi-dramas affected the Danish Film/TV and music industry?
Yes, I am working with the people who made those series, the best writers around! I was not doing music aupervision when they were made so I cannot brag about that. The projects we are working on at the moment are all growing out of those successful series and no doubt they have had an enormous impact on the way the rest of the world looks at Scandinavian TV series. On TV series we have an fantastic international interest already in the development stage.
All the writers/directors I’m working with like Adam Price (Borgen), Søren Sveistrup (The Killing), Rasmus Heisterberg (A Royal Affair), Niels Arden Oplev (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo/Under The Dome) are all international stars now. Working with these guys is quite okay for your reputation.
The Danes take everything quite easy, but personally I am very much aware of the big impact a TV series can have for an artist and a title song, so I am always looking for that perfect match.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the Danish sync industry operates? Do Danish productions typically use Danish music or is it a mixture?
It depends on the project. But in general I think we are very international minded. An evergreen hit song can be from anywhere. If it’s a part of our life’s soundtrack it doesn’t matter if it’s US, UK, Italian or local. If it’s a new artist/track it’s the same. Last year I did a commercial for Carlsberg beer, I found a band from Riga called “Carnival Youth” on Spotify. They had the perfect song “Never Have Enough” that had a very low number of plays so they were totally fresh. It is now running for a second year in the TV ad.
What’s your musical discovery process for your projects? Are you open to artists approaching you?
I have a very massive network of labels, publishers and artists, and then there’s Spotify. I have a constant flow of emails offering me music and when I hear something that is honest and hits me, I get all the info and knowledge about the ownership etc. to be able to work with it. I don’t mind people sending me music and updates as long as they respect that I don’t have the time to respond to all inquiries. I will do that when the right and relevant project comes along.
Can you tell us about your time at Music Sales and representing such a huge publishing catalogue? What were some of the key placements you scored?
The catalogue is very eclectic and Music Sales own the biggest local Danish publishing company with a big part of the Danish Music DNA from approx. 1940-1980 and that made it interesting to work with. I have some favourite scenes in films like “Papa Loves Mambo” in the movie Sex, Drugs and Taxations, and “My Sharona” in Speed Walking. But also working with the music of Phillip Glass on a worldwide 15 min. long corporate film for Danfoss was a great experience.
What advice would you have for Danish artists trying to get their music heard and synced internationally?
Music has to be honest! Not sound like something but be something!
So if your music fits pictures it is automatically international. You need to build awareness: Touring, releasing your music and simply spreading the word on social medias etc.
For me it is crucial for composers and artists to have an artistic life out of sync. It is when real life meets motion picture the good stuff happens. I always advised artists to keep on being curious, always be productive and release music in a flow, never to stop sending music and updates, but to find a way so it doesn’t feel disturbing but participating. If you pitch, get your info about projects right and don’t try to think you know what is needed but ask. If you want to participate as a craftsman, you need to build relationships and trust.
Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your time as a music supervisor?
Working on Speed Walking with Niels Arden Oplev was a great film to be a part of. The way the film developed in edit was fantastic. The characters, and the way Niels managed to make two boys 14 years old act was astonicing. Also Klovn Forever with director Mikkel Nørgaard was so much fun to do. It is a sequel to the most successful cinema picture in Denmark for 25 years and still the whole team was relaxed and fun to work with, no pressure or stress, just a creative positive vibe. We open next week so fingers crossed.
Who are your creative inspirations?
My kids. My oldest son is nineteen and just being around him, doing what he does, is inspiring. He is into a lot of stuff that keeps me on the track of all the new sounds.
You speak at a lot of events and conferences, are there any you would particularly recommend?
It is great with many conferences putting the work we do in focus. I can always recommend the local Spot Festival, Sat Bisla’s Musexpo is also great. Sat has an impressive network and a outstanding business knowledge. Its always the “top pros” participating. I like the conferences that dig a bit deeper into the way we work. I hope the London Sync Sessions will set a standard for that.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I just finished 4 feature films this summer. The Summer of 92, Sorgenfri (Meta Film), KLOVN FOREVER (Nutmeg Movies), and Parents (Nordisk Films).
Currently I’m working on In the Blood (Profile Pictures), The Wife (starring the outstanding cast: Glen Close, Frances McDorman, Jonathan Pryce, and many more for Meta Film Stockholm), When Rock ‘n’ Roll Came To Town, a 12 episode TV series from SAM Writer Adam Price (Borgen), and Swinger (Meta Film).
My involvement on all projects is from development to final film with the partnership companies. As the music key point person there are many elements and a lot of details for me to have an eye on.
What artists are you into at the moment?
Jonny Greenwood, Stevie Wonder’s old stuff.
The Danish music industry grew for the second year running in 2014, what are your predictions for the future of the market? What changes have you seen?
I think that we are looking at a very strong live scene full of talent and self-belief. When the live acts are strong and they have a unique and original approach they create fan bases, and fan ´bases make the industry. Every half year I do better collaboration agreements with labels and publishing. I feel the majors are more open for collaboration and acknowledging that the role I have is relevant to partner with.
How can the music industry work better with the film industry?
I don’t know a film company that thinks dealing with music is easy. The music industry is known among film people for making everything very complicated.
We need to understand the needs in a Film/TV production process and be much more open and service minded. Times are changing and the fact that my setup is a success shows we are in the making of a new future as partners, not sitting on two separate planets.
From inside the music business I think that when production music catalogues grow rapidly with a lot of really great and useful music, it is time for some companies to look into their structure and make everything much more accessible, that time is here now.
At the London Sync Sessions, hosted by Metropolis Studios later this month, you’ll be speaking on a panel about film co-production from a music perspective. Can you tell us about that?
Attending a panel at Les Arcs Film Festival’s Co-production Village, I learned that film producers and directors have a challenge when it comes to music and music supervision in co-productions. The reason for this panel is to inspire and discuss how to create a network that secures a selection of relevant composers and music supervisors for European film co-productions. It would be helpful for the producer to be able to offer the director a variety of composers to choose from, although it is a completely different nationality you have to work with. The choice of a composer can be a random choice because of the budget and the co-producer’s music network. For the director the music is way too important to be a random choice. What are the benefits and possibilities, what are the challenges?!
We’d like to say a huge thanks to Nis for giving us such a great insight into the Danish creative industries. To hear Nis and many other fantastic professionals speak in London later this month, grab your ticket for the London Sync Sessions before spaces run out.