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They prioritize abroad

What do the artist Marion Raven, the serial creator Jason and the playwright Jon Fosse have in common? They give priority to foreign countries, so Norway has to wait for their new work.


Autumn's cultural launches are in full swing, and last week pop star Marion Raven dominated Norwegian media on the occasion of the release of the solo debut Here I Am. The media blast was not as intense around comic creator John Arne "Jason" Sæterøy, but the album Let me show you something ... has already received brilliant reviews after it was released on Monday.

These two very different artists have something very special in common: The launches in Norway are only part of a larger global plan, and for both Norway comes second in line. Here I Am was released in six countries in Southeast Asia in early summer, while Let me show you something ... was released in Sweden and France as early as September last year. Only now they are published in their home country, and the story behind is a good example of the globalization of the cultural market.

International star

Marion Ravn and Marit Larsen from Lørenskog became global pop stars with the duo M2M. This summer, Ravn will be launched as the solo artist Marion Raven in Southeast Asia, Scandinavia and Mexico through the American record company Atlantic Records – which in turn is owned by the giant company Warner. And it was the Asia launch that was the first priority.

- This is not common in the Norwegian record industry, but here it is Warner in the US, not us, who decides where the record will be launched first. It is not uncommon for Norwegian musicians to be on foreign record companies, but then you usually choose to launch the artist in your home country first. Both Annie and Magnet have a record contract with English record companies, but were first released in Norway through us, says Guttorm Raa, product manager at Warner Music Norway.

The multinational record industry is hierarchically structured. At the top are the international superstars, such as U2, Coldplay and Eminem, which are launched simultaneously all over the world – to avoid local departments losing big money on downloads, piracy and imports. At the bottom we find the local artists, who are only exceptionally launched outside national borders after domestic success. Marion Raven belongs to a middle class. She already has an international audience base as a result of the success of M2M, but at the same time is not greater than that intense and thorough promotion is required in each region in connection with the record release. The artist has to line up for interviews and appearances in local media, and it is both time consuming and laborious. If Atlantic decides to launch Marion Raven fully in the US, it will involve several months of hard promotional work.

- M2M was strong in Asia, and therefore they chose to launch her there first. The biggest stars are launched all over the world at the same time, but otherwise you concentrate on one area at a time – simply because the artist cannot be everywhere at the same time. Now it's Mexico's turn for Marion, and if all goes well, the rest of South America will probably wait. Her next album I think will definitely be launched all over the world at the same time, says Raa.

The last M2M album was also released first in Asia, and then Warner was criticized for not giving the Norwegian press too little time. Thus, Warner wanted this time to give Raven a proper launch in Norway, but that decision led to Norwegian record shops and journalists waiting for two months. This led to new criticism.

- We had expected that. We thought about it many times before we decided to wait until August with the release and launch. The newspapers really like to write that they do not understand why we choose to wait, but I hope they understand it now. We have received a bag and a sack, and the only downside was that the record was available for two months via the internet and import.

Bag and bag yes. Norwegian media also rejected the Asia release Here I Am great attention, and VG reviewed the album based on a listening copy on – with poor sound quality and wrong order on the songs. It was also quoted diligently from Marion interviews in Asian magazines, without it going beyond interest when Raven himself took the trip to Oslo last week. She did 30 interviews in three days.

Small fish in France

The media noise is not as intense around the mold maker Jason, but where Marion Raven is targeting Asia, Jason has become a small fish in the huge pond of French comics. Now he is working with France and the US as the main target, while releases in his home country Norway are mostly an afterthought. He creates comic books in English for the French publishers Carabas and Atrabiles, who then translate the script into French. Then Jason has to translate his own series back to Norwegian, when they are eventually released here at home. Let me show you something ... came out in French, Swedish and English language costume before it came in Norwegian this week.

- Let me show you something ... is commissioned by a French publisher, and is made in French style with the French market in mind. In fact, I'm almost done with a kind of sequel, Perhaps tomorrow…, who will be out in France this fall, and has already started planning album number three. French publishers are most interested in album series with regular review characters, but although the main character will look the same in my albums, there are different characters and stories. If there is one thing in common, it is that all the stories take place in major European cities – Brussels, Paris in the 1920s and Berlin, respectively. I plan to catch up with the Norwegian market eventually, says Jason.

Jason's American publisher, Fantagraphics Books, describes Let me show you something ... like a forgotten Hitchcock script filmed by Jim Jarmusch. If we take Jason forcibly closer to one of his great role models, Hergé (the man behind Tintin), than ever, we begin to approach. Jason's mix of funny animals, peculiar melancholy and original stories has led him to being released throughout 15 countries.

- I grew up reading French albums of this type; independent stories in colors of around 48 pages. It is a challenging format to work in, and with Let me show you something ... I actually had to write my first script. In the past, I worked out the story while drawing it out.

Jason now lives in Montpellier, France, where he witnessed the French album market grow stronger following a small crisis in the early 1990s. Small and hungry publishers have pushed the veterans to think more progressively, and the increased competition has led to an explosion in supply. Bestsellers are printed in the hundreds of thousands, while giants like Asterix og Titeuf comes in millions. Jason is still a small fish with his 500 in circulation, but the upgrade from black and white to lavish color albums is a big step in the right direction. In Norway there are very few new albums of the kind Jason creates, and without the French market to rely on wild Let me show you something ... hardly been made at all.

- The French market is my first priority, and that is why I live in France. This is how the market works today. If you want to make comedy series, Norway is good, and if you want to draw superheroes, you go to the USA. I want to make a comic book album, and then it's France that counts, Jason concludes.

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