The record label hosting concerts through video

Joakim Haugland, is the founder of Smalltown Supersound, a record label based in Oslo. He shares how they have been keeping music fans engaged virtually with listening parties in a challenging time for the music industry.

On the west coast of Norway, in a small town called Flekkefjord, young Joakim found his passion in music. “There was no vision and no plan, it was just one of many things I started when I was in my teens. I ran a club, a festival, a cinema club, a management and a record label. I guess the record label was what stuck.” says Joakim. “So there was no plan, just accidental and part of my process of growing up in a small town trying not to get bored to death and trying to replicate what the big cities had. So in a way, I tried to create what I thought the big cities had - and what our small town lacked.”

Joakim is the founder of Smalltown Supersound, a record label based in Oslo with warehouses and partners in the UK and USA. They export music globally and have grown a personal connection with their community over the past 27 years. Interestingly, Joakim was never interested in making music himself, but when his brother and friends started their own bands, he managed “all the other stuff” for them. “It’s weird that something you start when you are 17 is still your main interest, and job, when you are 45. I feel that’s both sad and good at the same time. But mostly good.” says Joakim.

“When I was a kid I dreamed of being able to live out releasing music, travel and have everything inside a small computer. Now both time and technology has got me there. So I can say that I live my dream :)”

Before the pandemic, Joakim was traveling mostly to London to meet with his partners. But the music industry was shaken by the pandemic and things were put on hold. “It’s bad, really bad, especially for the artists, and the live industry. It’s a bit easier for us running record labels, but we had to press pause like many businesses around the world.” says Joakim. “The label is mostly in my laptop and I speak to my colleagues on Whereby and on the phone. All the records are stored in warehouses in UK and US so I don’t need anything other than my mac and the interactions with the artists and colleagues.”

“It’s been a strange time indeed, mostly because we are all in it together. I've been mostly sitting at home planning releases to come out next year. It’s been alright, I feel privileged to live in Norway.”

Joakim’s predictions for the music industry include more flexible work, which is something his team has been embracing. “I work quite a lot from home as my co-workers are in other cities and countries anyway. So yes I think this way of working will continue, but I also miss office life.” says Joakim. “This pandemic put me in touch with Whereby and that was a revelation to me. I was actually introduced to Whereby by some of the most forward thinking people in the British music industry, and I was so happy, and proud, when I discovered that Whereby is Norwegian.

This August, Joakim and his team hosted their first listening parties over video with their artist Kelly Lee Owens. The intimate setting was something they had not experienced before. Fans and artists were connecting in ways they couldn’t imagine happening during a physical concert. “I learned that the fans love to be “invited home” to the artist, so that they can listen to the music together and interact, ask questions and get information that they otherwise would not have gotten. So it really felt like a new thing.” says Joakim. “A room where artists and fans can communicate directly. So it was a really pleasant surprise that we, together with you guys at Whereby, will continue to explore and develop. This was the best thing that came out of the pandemic for us as a label I think.”

"I can't play any instruments myself. That is my biggest advantage running a record label. For me music is emotions. So I have put together a small playlist of tracks that creates emotions and moods for me. For someone who is not a musician I will forever be in awe of musicians who are able to create these kinds of feelings."

Whereby playlist by Smalltown Supersound

The secret to Joakim’s success with music?

"Continuity. Never stop. Always keep on releasing music. And, listen to music passionately."

Listen to Smalltown Supersound’s Soundcloud here
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