February 12, 2021

Mahogni Music Publishing

We catch up with founding director of Mahogni Music Publishing, Høgni Lisberg, to discuss the creation and launch of the Faroe Islands first dedicated music publishing company

Please tell us where Mahogni Music Publishing started ? 

The company was officially founded in 2019. Preparations started back in 2018, reviewing the landscape, with a view to partner with Faroese artists and international publishing partners. It all seemed to add up, with many attainable goals. And so, after building a highway for 2 years or so, we started driving this thing in 2020. These are still early days, but everything’s up and running, and so far working as hoped. 

Congratulations to that! You’re the first dedicated music publishing company from the Faroe Islands. Naturally catalogues take time build, and connect to music supervisors, markets etc. how has the first full year of operation been?

Great music has been collected, making a beautiful catalog that keeps growing, the international partners are on board and are giving this a sincere push to their network, and finally clients/consumers seem to be embracing the music that is represented, as the first good placements are already starting to happen; Elinborg had a song in a big TV advert for YR weather forecasts - 

Jógvan has a theme song for a docu-series called Karsten & Leif, both on NRK (the national TV of Norway). We have landed other smaller placements through the year, and custom bespoke music has been made for Faroese clients as well. 

Creative professionals of the Faroe Islands have a strong sense of community, everyone knowing everyone, it’s great that you are working to both tap in to and enhance that, internationally, as well as locally.. 

The Faroese music network is small and people are supportive of each other. This whole spirit of sticking together is what makes this publishing adventure possible. I could not do this without the positive attitude from the Faroese artists that started this catalog. With a small but strong catalog in hand I was able to get this thing moving, and from here on I think the sky is the limit. There is still so much music I wish to add, and the world is a vast and ever changing market with endless possibilities to seek and explore. 

I would love to use this opportunity to send a massive thank you: To my Faroese colleagues, and the publishers and people I have worked with internationally, for more than a decade, have made this possible. They have helped and guided me in the start up process. And Kári Davidsen from Faroe Law, who has helped me adapt the whole legal concept to Faroese terms and language. I have invested much in this endeavour, but so have many people.

We have experienced ourselves, the Faroese language doesn’t have dedicated words for certain professional roles, or terminology. Is this quite a typical challenge in the Faroe Islands, and has this been difficult to work around legally? 

I felt it was really important to create the agreement in Faroese language. While doing so you come to understand the terms much better yourself, as it becomes a really deep dive into all that, also making it much easier to engage in further communication with people when you don’t have to swap between multiple languages. 

There are still some single words lingering from the standard English terms, but overall I’d say we made it. 

When all this is said, music business language is in a way a language of its own, and I guess it’s something you have to learn and get used to, but that ‘s a challenge for anyone starting out. I think it’s important to take the time to talk it all through and explain everything in normal language as well – this applies to all languages VS music business language.

The music community has grown significantly the past decade, even now with a dedicated export office. But even with the internet and the digital connections music makes across borders, it can still present some unique challenges being a remote nation? 

20 years ago it was not common to think that a Faroese artist could make it on the international scene. Today there is no doubt that this is possible. And Faroese artists struggle on equal terms with international acts. Hopes are high and confidence is growing. But the music business industry and culture is very young here and there is still so much to be learned. 

That’s why I think it is imperative that we try to nurture and build as much as possible from here. No one understands a Faroese artist as well as a Faroe Islander, so to speak.

And as we keep evolving with our own publishing, booking, label work (which on its own is quite experienced by now), etc, we all learn a lot and we grow up and will be better to handle the various situations that a musician will encounter through the years on the journey. 

Indeed, and the demand within our industry is for constantly evolving and increasing competence, knowledge and skills, for all who wish to participate. It is an industry that is constantly moving forwards on a knife edge between technology and social evolution. How does Mahogni Music Publishing move forwards? 

Moving forward the plan is to keep expanding to new territories with an ever growing selection of North Atlantic music. 

Locally there are also plenty of opportunities; To further root Faroese music in Faroese produced television and adverts, etc. … TV and radio are already very supportive. But there are still unexplored and unused methods of pairing music with local business. I hope we can build more of a culture in that sense, as it would be beneficial for all parties to be supportive locally, branding identity will feel local and money will be placed in the Faroes music scene. And who knows what new types of combinations can be created? Not everything is to be measured in sales and money. New creative stuff can also arise from this.

There’s an eagerness to contribute and be involved, without perhaps the experience to know the best possible practice to support music, or move forwards at times. Do you feel there’s a good understanding of you and your work yet? What can publishing contribute to this? 

After having many successes with my own music being placed in Tv shows and ads all over the world for more than a decade, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that “If my music works for this type of work, the music of other Faroese artists will work too”. I firmly believe there is a market for the music from the Faroe Islands. I even have a little weird theory: It has often been said that there is a special tone in the Faroese music, a sad tone of sort, something hazy that can not be touched, but you feel it’s there. That makes it unique! Also, the standards are high in terms of sound and production. And people are brave and edgy. But only few make it to the charts. … Ok, so after many years of making high quality contemporary music, with very few chart placements, does that mean we’ve failed in that sense? Well, partially it’s because the music business culture is still young - we will learn to rise to the charts eventually, I have no doubt. ..BUT, what I wanted to say: Maybe Faroese music is PERFECT for publishing! It has a completely unique emotion while keeping the production standard high, and stylistic choices are brave. MAYBE we have been shooting our arrows in the wrong direction for a long time. MAYBE publishing is where it all starts and we get the ball moving. 

So finally, how do you measure success ? 

If this all goes well we will start to feel the beneficial effects within a few years, because when many artists start getting an income from having their music placed in publishing, this income will pay for time to write more songs, pay for studio time, music videos, art collaborations, etc. And we will see increased opportunities for music, where connections are made, and everything just adds up for a second: Your new album is out, you have a tour booked, and you have the theme song for the latest big TV series, for example.

This is all a part of a daydream routine .. But these things CAN happen IF you seek the opportunities out there. And that’s what we are doing here. MMP, its artists, and the international collaborators are seeking opportunities, that are NOT more distant to an artist from the Faroe islands than it is to an artist from any other country. 

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