Made in Sweden: Swedmetal Records Revive Rock n’ Roll, One Band at a Time

Swedmetal Records LogoThis is one record label that has certainly not followed a conventional path to success. For one it began as a shop – yes, an online metal shop called Swedmetal Rock Shop (www.swedmetal.com). “It grew very quick and became one of the leading independent web shops with over 15.000 articles in stock,” recounts founder Mike of the company’s roots.  “After just a month in business the first bands started to get in touch asking us to sell their demos, CDs and stuff,” he continues, but it wasn’t until 2004 that they really began to dabble in recording. That year “we got offered to release a fantastic live recording with Old Heroes 220 Volt, which was quite big during the early 90´s. We gave it a shot and after that it just went on: more bands got in touch, and we helped them to get out an album,” says Mike.

Since then, Swedmetal have made it their business to help talented acts from the realms of Sleaze, Glam and Rock n’ Roll to get their music to the world. Along the way they’ve made every opportunity a learning experience: “Today, we probably wouldn’t have released some of the stuff since we didn’t at the time know how to sell some of it,” admits Mike and explaining further adds, “We know how to sell Rock n’ Roll, not Death Metal or industrial stuff – we learnt.”

To date, Swedmetal Records – “founded in a small village, consisting of 50 households in the South of Sweden” – has thirty releases under its belt, including: Pretty Wild, Glorious Bank Robbers and Innocent Rosie, who hit #1 on Swedish charts. Not showing any signs of slowing down, their popularity and reputation is quickly growing and more and more bands are seeking their help.

So what can Swedmetal do for an artist? “We help bands with most everything,” says Mike bluntly. “Everything” includes recording, touring and promotion. “I think we have done most all stuff there is and we just love it,” he concludes. That passion is exactly what makes Swedmetal stand out, and asked to give a reason bands should choose to work with them Mike says it himself: “We are very devoted to what we do. If we work with a band we do it 100%, we really try to do our best for them. We help them in any way there is, from advice to getting tours and selling merchandise.”

With time comes growth and knowledge and through the years Swedmetal has managed to “build up a huge network of contacts” and, with plenty of modesty that showcases the label’s sincerity, Mike adds that what they do “is not unique in any way, but as a small independent label I think we do it damn good.”

Continuing with the frank honesty Mike explains that “to be honest, a band could do it all by themselves today, with internet and stuff, but what they can’t do is to just pick up the huge network we have […] We have the distribution, we know where to turn to sell licenses, for example in Japan. We know the business, and that is the hard part.”

Always on the prowl for new talent, Swedmetal looks for artists in their demo period and tries to build them up. The process usually takes a standard route: “Mostly we get recommended a band and then check it out, and if we believe they have what it takes we start following them [on the internet and through live shows]. Can be for some months up to a few years,” says Mike. Also critical is the human factor and they always “try to know how [the artists] are as persons […] We don’t want to work with bands that can’t behave, they need to be good people.” If the correct dynamic is there and if both Swedmetal and the musician(s) are up for it then “we start to see what we think we can do to help them,” continues Mike. “Sometimes they need help to find a producer, sometimes a studio, and sometimes they already have it all […] For all bands we help with promotion and gigs, and mostly we help with their live show. There are some very easy things to do that can change a band from ok live to brilliant,” he elaborates. So why all the emphasis on the live act? The explanation is both simple and logical: “Who wants to go to a concert and see a band standing there, playing to perfection, but not moving, not giving a show?”

Being based in a somewhat remote location, one wonders if it ever causes any problems. “We’re based in Sweden since it’s here the good music is created,” jokes Mike. On a more serious note, Mike explains that with only one sole office Swedmetal relies on the internet to take care of business in other countries and “maybe it takes a little longer, but hey, mail and phone works,” he says. With all these mediums of communication working abroad is easy and since they’re “not producing anything the bands don’t have to come here,” but after a pause the founder adds, “even if I believe most of the foreign bands we work with would like to.”

Having released a wide array of genres they now focus on what they know best: “Rock n’ Roll, in one way or another, that’s our thing and we will stick with it. We have been offered some “big” names in other styles,” admits Mike, “but we don’t think we would do a good job for them. Rock n’ Roll is what we like, and what we know how to promote and sell, and you should do what you’re good at.”

Asked to comment on the influence of the web on music Mike believes “it has been good for smaller bands since they finally got a chance to find an audience, and by that maybe attract a label. For the music industry […] we believe that all this shit of illegal downloading might not be that bad. It helps the bands to reach out even more. Not saying that it’s ok to do so, but why complain about it. Use it to your advantage instead!” Sounds like some solid, and smart, advice!

Future plans are simple and comprise of going full steam ahead and “putting out some real good ass – kicking Rock n’ Roll!” In September they’ll release work from three new artists: Lucky Bastardz from Italy, Vanity Ink from Finland and Star*Rats from Denmark/Sweden.

To finish off I ask Mike why artists should opt for small labels like Swedmetal rather than aim for big, fancy names: “If you are signed by a major label you will probably have priority #300. When signing with a smaller label first, it might help you more since there you have a higher priority, and they really work for you!”

So if you’re in a band, or know someone who is, what are you waiting for? Send your promo kits to:

Swedmetal

Box 43

382 21 Nybro

Sweden

Just remember to follow Mike’s advice: “[Bands] shouldn’t start by sending mail, trying to say how good they are etc. That is the worst thing […] they will never, ever release something with us.”