Tallinn Music Week and how do we market Estonia

Yesterday I was invited to a panel at Tallinn Music Week along with the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, director of London Jazz Festival John Cumming and others to discuss whether it matters where a band is from or not. The discussion turned out to cover more, with topics ranging from the birth of reggae to specifics of Nordic jazz.

I was surprised how many times the word infrastructure was mentioned when talking about something as creative as the music industry. You need to have the systems in place to grow and spot talent and promote it the home country and abroad before you can expect to see truly big stars. Anna Hildur from Iceland Music Export said Björk would probably not have made it so far so fast had Sugarcubes not woken up the Icelandic music scene first. Tallinn Music Week will definitely become part of such platform for Estonian artists. The festival rocked, even based on the little I saw of it. Kudos to the Helen and the rest of the team that made this happen, and kudos for Skype for supporting it.

The panel briefly touched upon marketing countries, too. One thought that occurred to me only after the panel was that the concept of Estonia as a technology country is losing steam. True, we’ve had the government meeting room with very pretty computer screens, mobile parking, Skype and some other cool things going on. Is that enough to claim us to be technologically advanced or does it come across as a “one hit wonder” if I may borrow the music analogy here? We may need another technology chart topper before continuing to talk about e-stonia. If this doesn’t materialize in the next couple of years maybe we’re better off defining Estonia through events like song festivals and TMW instead. Or perhaps a compromise: the country with hi-tech folks that can sing in tune.

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