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In Focus: a snapshot of Sweden’s pro-audio business

With Eurovision just around the corner, PSNEurope takes a close look at Sweden's studios, festivals, pro-audio kit and the companies that provide it...with an ABBA reference or two thrown in for good measure.

Sweden is what happens if you fax England to the Baltic. It comes out a little different, a little paler and smudged, but essentially it’s a post-’70s photocopy. The traffic signs, the clouds, even the Royal Family participate in a referred parallel universe, probably hinging on some ancient Viking plunder.
The Swedish music industry has done nothing to counter this impression, ever since Ulvaeus and Andersson abandoned their rollmopped hootenanny played on moose antlers for proper British Pop. Once Dancing Queen had topped the worldwide charts for 1976, a golden era ensued that continued past the untimely death of production supremo Denniz PoP with his Brill-building style Cheiron Studios (Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, Britney Spears) and into the current age of Agnes, Avicii and Robyn, all the time mingling in the crowd of UK and US hits unrecognisable as even Scandinavian. By the time of Rednex’s Cotton Eye Joe, Swedish pop had gone as far West as anyone could. Trade and Industry Accordingly Sweden has propagated a pro-audio industry to match anything Occidental. Studios have closed, festivals have multiplied and TV talent shows spew their voices onto the blood and sand of the arenas like a Roman feast.

Frequency bandwidth has been stolen by voracious mobile phone companies; digital audio transport has infested sound reinforcement and installation but, most amazing of all, sound designer Lars Wern is NOT on duty for this month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. Sweden took the crown in Baku last year, duly focusing this year’s lenses on the country, but Eurovision veteran and therefore Sennheiser wireless ace Wern is elsewhere.
He is VP of EM Nordic, a Scandinavian distributor of MI and pro-audio products, as well as being much in demand for FOH mixing and theatre sound design as CEO of rental and contracting company DM Audio.

Fundamentally the company is too busy with other projects for Wern to spare the time funnelling Azerbaijani circus acts through the annual broadcasting miracle, many of which projects continue to blaze a trail for his current wunderprodukt: Martin Audio’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array, especially the latterday Compact iteration.
“Now they have three different sizes,” Wern says, “with the release of the Mini at Frankfurt. What’s happening is exactly what I predicted for the system: it’s a fantastic solution, able to address noise control as never before. You can achieve a good, high SPL for the audience while maintaining a peaceful atmosphere for everyone surrounding the event. The directivity is a real breakthrough, and the best example I can think of is when we used our MLA-C system last summer with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra at an outdoor gig called the Gardetkonsert.
“With a 30,000-strong audience, the coverage was superb and yet the stage was almost silent – making the orchestra very happy! At another gig, the same orchestra was doing a youth concert at Frys Huset with a rap artist. They were loud, and I took the orchestra’s union representative, a cellist, to FOH to listen to the sound check. He then resumed his place in the orchestra – and genuinely thought I’d turned the PA off! It’s such a big difference in front and behind the system. In 25 years we’ve never had so many compliments about the sound.”
This summer is packed with tours, TV shows and festivals, keeping Wern away from Eurovision and occupied with DM Audio’s main inventory of Martin Audio speakers, DiGiCo consoles and QSC amplification and processing. In a sales capacity, EM Nordic is seeing QSC’s DSP products spearhead widespread adoption of audio networking while DM Audio itself is installing Q-Sys at Stockholm’s new Tele-2 football arena, part of the Globe Arena complex. Wern’s son, Richard, has also just won a contract for DM Audio to supply all the backline for the huge Sweden Rock festival in Sölvesborg, so the legacy continues. Read the rest Phil Ward’s full report on Sweden in the May digital edition of PSNEurope