Local star Eivor on stage at this year's G! Festival. (Photo: Kristfríð Tyril)
In the North Atlantic, half-way between Norway and Iceland, the Faroe Islands don't immediately spring to mind as a focal point for music business delegates from Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Head-to-toe rainwear is essential. The weather shifts in an instant from sun to rain, rain to gales, from gales to fog and back... then all arrive at once. In an hour. Yet the three-day G! festival and the accompanying program of business-focused events are a draw.
Overall, the population of the 18 islands is just over 48,000. The capital, Tórshavn and the surrounding metropolitan area is home to around 20,000. Syðrugøta -- site of the annual G! -- is inhabited by 500. An hour from Tórshavn on the island of Eysturoy, it has no hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. The islands are swimming in music, but have yet to make the mark Iceland has, although singer-songwriter Teitur has had some impact in Britain and the States. On the Friday night, locally-raised Eivør (pronounced I-far) attracted an audience of 4,000 to the stage on Syðrugøta's beach.
(Photo: Kristfríð Tyril)
The founder of G! is Jón Tyril, formerly of pioneering Faroese experimental pop band Clickhaze (Eivør -- now an established star in Iceland -- was also in Clickhaze). Tyril founded G! in 2002. "It's changed from 800 people to first year to 6,000 now," he says. "From one stage to three, from one day to three. The first year we had only local acts." Last year saw the locals supplemented by Britain's Travis and The Blind Boys of Alabama. This year, John Grant was booked, but fog meant he couldn't make it from Iceland, where he's completing the follow up to King Of Denmark. Teitur, although not scheduled to play, stepped up.
"The festival's focus is the Faroese music scene," continues Tyril. "It's bringing inspiration to that. This is about taking Faroese music to the outside world as we don't absorb people naturally." Most festival goers stayed in a temporary campsite in neighboring Norðragøta.
Despite Syðrugøta's size, visiting delegates -- put up in locals' houses -- had much to occupy and interest them. A networking session brought Faroese professionals and the outlanders together. This year's G! was the first held in alliance with the island's main label TUTL (in its 35th year of operation) and the government (the Faroes are an autonomous, self-governing region of Denmark). FAME -- the Faroese Alliance for Music Export -- is the acronym of the new three-way partnership.
Coverage this year came from the national radio networks of Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Representatives from national newspapers and magazines from Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK were also present, along with Wired 's UK edition and British B2B daily CMU . Austria's Waves, Denmark's SPOT, Germany's Reeperbahn Festival and Iceland Airwaves were on the lookout for acts to book.
Faroese artist Benjamin (left) poses with Iceland Airwaves' Grimur Atlason, who booked Benjamin for his next festival. (Photo: Kristfríð Tyril)
Grimur Atlason, Iceland Airwaves's director, says "I'm here for the music, checking out the Faroese music scene. Of course, we have a soft spot for our neighbors but on the other hand bands from the Faroe Islands are doing well internationally. We like that, but in the end it's business and talent. That is why I am here."
At another event, Atlason awarded Benjamin, a dark-edged rocker, a prize and further international exposure with a slot at this year's Iceland Airwaves. Immediately after his G! show, Benjamin was picked up by Germany's popup-records, part of the Cargo Records group. He wasn't alone -- singer-songwriter Marius was snapped up by fellow German indie StarGazer Records.
"After I saw Marius I thought he would fit perfectly on StarGazer," says the label's Isabel Parzich. "I was touched by his live appearance, he was so honest, his emotions. I didn't expect so many good bands in the Faroes. I had no intention to sign someone. It's such a surprise."
For the newly-formed FAME, it's a good start.