Tom Riski is something as unusual as a Finnish music lawyer. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also an international music business professional who doesn’t live in Helsinki, but in Turku, a university city on the south-western coast of Finland – the Finnish equivalent to Aalborg or Odense. From here, Tom runs his business, Solina Records, together with producer Jori Sjöroos.
”I’ve lived here for twenty years and it’s really no problem,” says Tom. ”People always seem to think they need to go to Berlin or LA to do business, but I don’t think that’s true. Most of the work is done in the office or by phone, email or while traveling, so it doesn’t really matter where you live.”
Despite its small size, Solina Records has many successful artists on the roster. Almost all of them have seen their careers taking off seriously when focusing on going abroad. Magenta Skycode, one of the first acts Solina signed, was actually the only one to be successful in Finland rather than internationally. There is a reason: Magenta Skycode was one of the most recognized and established Indie bands in their native Finland.
”That was back in the days when we still sold physical records. Since we moved to digital formats, a lot of the revenue comes from streaming services and audiences abroad. The most successful acts internationally have been Sin Cos Tan and Burning Hearts,” says Tom. There’s one sector especially that makes it possible to make ends meet for Solina Records:
”A really good source of income is sync for different TV shows. First of all you get the initial revenue from the deal, but it also generates streams when people go to check out the band they heard on the show. This is a huge reason why some of our bands can go play tours in the UK and the US – their music is heard on TV and gets added to official playlists afterwards. We recently managed to get almost two minutes of a song into the Halt and Catch Fire-series, which is produced by AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead). I was also just dealing with one of the biggest cosmetics brands in the world. It sounds a bit insane, but actually I’m just a guy with a computer in a corner of the world.”
For Tom, all kinds of speed-meetings and networking events are very welcome – that’s where he meets people face-to-face and gets to pitch the music on the label. He’s especially on the look out for music supervisors. He also reports back to the organizers of networking events to let them know about the outcome.
According to him, being a lawyer also helps a lot. ”People in the industry, both artists and business contacts, appreciate when they’re dealing with someone who knows what they’re doing in terms of contracts and rights. Sadly, there’s also a lot of misuse of our label’s music – people putting it in ads without even asking. When you know your rights well you can also confront those situations with more confidence.”
For the time being, all bands on Solina’s label are Finnish. Most of them are even from Turku.
”It was an idea we had when we started, but that was ten years ago. We’re open to collaborations from other parts of the world, but it has proven to be easier to work with local bands, for practical reasons. We do get a lot of requests though.”
What about Danish music then?
”It’s great, really! I’ve been to Spot Festival several times and seen a lot of showcases. I really love some of the Danish bands. Kissaway Trail, Efterklang, Ring Them Bells… And if someone like Trentemøller came along and asked us, we’d be more than happy to sign them!”