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‘We’ve come a long way’: Inside Warner Music Nordics expansion

Karoliina Kanerva, the new head of International at Warner Music Nordics, has spoken to Headliner about her plans to ramp up Warner Music’s efforts to connect its international repertoire with fans across the region.

Having been promoted from her role as international marketing manager at Warner Music Finland, Kanerva will help increase the collaboration between Warner Music’s international labels and its international marketing teams based in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm.

These teams have enjoyed success with a wide variety of international artists, including Ava Max, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, Joel Corry and Tones and I. Over the last year, the Nordics was one of the first regions worldwide to see chart success for songs including CJ’s Whoopty, the Masked Wolf’s Astronaut In The Ocean and Tiësto’s The Business.

Kanerva said of her promotion: “It’s a great privilege to take up this role at such an exciting time. The Nordics and Baltic region is at the forefront of breaking the international stars of tomorrow. We always strive to develop innovative marketing campaigns, bringing our artists’ music to new fans and taking their careers to the next level. We take huge pride in leading the way on upcoming hits and our mission to break talent from around the world.”

Anders Lindberg, marketing director, Warner Music Nordics, added: “Karo’s drive for creativity, deep skills in marketing and promotion, curiosity for new trends and continuous passion for music brings a massive opportunity for the region. Her promotion will enable us to operate even more strongly in the future, incorporating new marketing tactics and reaching greater heights with our diverse artist roster.”

Here, Kanerva sets out her strategy for further expansion and explores the biggest opportunities in the market.

Congratulations on your new role. What are your plans and priorities for the region?

We have come a long way over the past couple of years as a regional organisation, while changing our mindset from a competitive relationship to a partnership. My ambition is to continue strengthening that ongoing collaboration between the Nordics, while creating even more coherent operating models that support that idea. We have a proven record of producing creative campaigns together as a region, as well as breaking acts that become superstars and my priority is to enhance those activations.

How has the music industry in the Nordics been coping with the pandemic?

Although the live industry has taken a massive hit during the pandemic, the music industry has coped well, while the lockdown has created various new trends and opportunities. TikTok has changed the way the consumer finds new music and TikTok advertising has opened new doors for digital marketing. The platform has also allowed many new artists to make their breakthrough.

Throughout lockdown, many artists involved their fans in the process of making music on platforms like Zoom and Twitch. Charli XCX turned her fans into A&Rs, songwriters and producers with her lockdown album project How I’m Feeling Now, using her socials and Zoom to get closer to the fan communities. Mike Shinoda founded a whole creative virtual-community on Twitch, and artists like Jax and PinkPantheress! created new songs and tested them to their fans on TikTok, improving them based on the feedback given.

From the international business perspective, Covid forced us to accelerate our digital globalisation. While pre-pandemic we met with our international colleagues once or twice each quarter, we now communicate on a weekly basis on various different platforms. This has caused more international collaborations outside the region and we work much closer with our friends for instance in Germany, France and Russia.

What are the biggest opportunities in the Nordics region?

The Nordic region is culturally diverse where geographically West meets East (ie. Scandinavia vs. Finland and Baltics). While every market has their own trends in music, we cover a total of seven countries and we’re able to break the borders of those trends while helping them export and spread to other markets in the region.

With the songs such as Master KG’s Jerusalema, CKay’s Love Nwantiti and the recent Nordic success of WM Sweden’s A36’s Samma Gamla Vanliga, which has streamed platinum in Norway and Finland, the language that’s used in songs is becoming less relevant, which opens more opportunities in our multi-cultural region as well as possibilities for future collaborations and local remixes.

Those opportunities, combined with our Nordic team’s ambition to break superstars of tomorrow through new creative ways and find new talent is our greatest asset.

How much of a focus will you be placing on breaking new talent in the region?

This is the majority of my focus. The music industry is a very fast changing world. It is important that we not only focus on our current superstars but to constantly find new talent and songs that would work in our Nordic markets.