Eva Karman Reinhold is one of the more well-known entertainment lawyers in Stockholm’s music world, having been active in the industry since the early 90s, first at the Swedish performing rights society, STIM, and then at labels like MNW. She’s also been active in the publishing space and is the head of the organization for Swedish indie labels (SOM). After bumping into her at this year’s SOM meeting, I took a trip to her office to chat about her background and career thus far, as well as Sweden’s music industry when it comes to indie labels.
– Hi Eva. Thanks for inviting me over. I’ve heard that you studied music at a popular Stockholm school called Södra Latin. What led you to go there?
I was fifteen and had to choose something to study after ninth grade. I was lucky to get in since they only accepted 60 out of 700 applicants, and that’s when I moved to Stockholm. Södra Latin was an impressive school with a long history, so I was surrounded by people my age who were gifted jazz and classical musicians. A lot of the students lived alone in the city, so we spent a lot of time practicing and hanging out at the school, which was open from 7am to 9pm. After that, we’d also go to clubs like Fasching to attend the live shows.
At eighteen, I applied to the Royal Academy of Music to pursue a teacher’s degree in English, but I decided to drop out around Christmas time. It was the first time my parents teamed up to talk me out of it, so I did another semester but ended up leaving after that. That’s when my mother suggested I take a course in Uppsala where John Cloud was teaching music business. I also got to know some people from STIM and MNW at that course, which expanded my network. Once the course was over, I worked with eldercare for a while, but John encouraged me to get involved in the music industry, so I applied for a summer job at STIM in 1992 and got hired.
– What kind of job were you hired to do at STIM?
I worked at the licensing department and was responsible for the middle-region of Sweden. My first job was to oversee whether anyone who used our member’s music had a license with STIM. So it involved things like reading newspaper ads for upcoming concerts and checking our databases to see if the venue had agreements with us. I was later transferred to the copyright department where I was responsible for checking the information sent to Nordic PROs from other societies like ASCAP and BMI. They’d send us small postcards with song titles, songwriters, ID number, splits, samples used, etc.
Hip-hop and sampling were growing at the time, so there were a lot of counterclaims by publishers who were reporting their share of a rap song as the whole share. As a result, the total claims would exceed 100%, and since the numbers didn’t add up, all the money was withheld at STIM. For example, I remember seeing Michael McDonald listed as one of the songwriters of “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg, so I’d contact the sub-publishers with the detailed splits and the information that it contained a sample from “I Keep Forgettin”. I also suggest that maybe they should perhaps claim 32% of the song instead of 100% (laughs). I worked on a lot of such cases.
– After leaving STIM in 1996, you joined MNW and helped start their publishing company. The label had been quite relevant in the 70s, but was it still important in the 90s?
MNW was relevant in the 70s, and by the 90s it was the biggest indie label in the Nordics with offices in every country, plus eighty employees, multiple recording studios and their own distribution setup. By the late 90s, they had a lot of successful Swedish releases of their own, and were also distributing Depeche Mode’s “Ultra” and The Prodigy’s “The Fat of The Land”, to name a few. They had a publishing company too, which was administered by indie publisher Misty Music. So yes, I’d say they were still relevant.
Aside from publishing, my job at MNW included being an A&R, which involved listening to demos and seeing whether we could sign artists to either the label or publishing side, or both. I was also the contact person for our songwriters and oversaw our international sub-publishing. As a result, I worked closely with the international licensing department headed by John Cloud and Jean Hsiao to get our releases licensed to other countries.
– After leaving MNW, you went to work at a record label called Gazell, correct?
Yes. Things became turbulent at MNW, so I left at the end of 2000. I got a call from Dag Häggkvist at Gazell and he offered me a job there. Despite having been a one-woman-publishing-department at MNW, the management team weren’t very interested in the work I did, so I was happy when Dag called. Gazell offered me a chance to learn something new since Dag had a lot of experience in the industry, having started at fifteen and worked with a lot of great artists.
Gazell had a label for releasing jazz and blues music, but their main business was as a sub-publisher. We represented Mute Song, Sugar Music and other big indie catalogs. So I worked with that, and it was similar to what I did at STIM, plus I could sign my own artists due to a joint venture I had with the label.
– You currently have a company called Smilodon that’s been around since the 2000s. Can you tell me about that?
Sure. That came about because I signed a band called Diamond Dogs to Gazell’s publishing arm. After a while, they asked if I could be their label, so I released their first album under the joint venture with Gazell. I later bought myself out of that partnership in 2004.
– You decided to go the legal route by studying to become a paralegal. What motivated that choice?
It actually began at university when I took night courses to study law in the 90s. After leaving Gazell in 2009, I studied to become a paralegal and got an internship at Hestra Advokatbyrå. I was given a job there afterwards, but after a few years decided to pursue a masters in law, so I left Hestra and got my degree at Stockholm University.
– You’ve shifted Smilodon to focus on legal counseling rather than releasing music. Why did you do that?
Because the music industry crashed in 2008. Things were going well at the time – I was putting out sleaze rock and hip-hop music, plus I had a distribution network that reached fifteen countries in Europe. I even licensed a band called Babylon Bombs to JVC in Japan. So things were going well until the industry crashed, which forced me to reduce my marketing and manufacturing expenses. So I took a break from being a label and refocused on the legal side.
– As a lawyer, how would Smilodon be able to help an indie artist who wanted to hire you?
I’d start by asking about their current plans and setup. I could help with negotiating a distribution deal or with structuring a contract. I could also help review their existing agreements or proposals based on what your ambitions are. Maybe an artist or producer wants to renegotiate their contract with a label, so their manager might come in to draw up a new agreement or go over the negotiation points, which I’d help with.
– What kind of clients do you mostly work with today?
There’s different categories – I get a lot of debuting artists who’ve been offered record deals or publishing deals. I’ve also worked with some of Sweden’s bigger artists on renegotiating their management contracts or helping them get out of a record deal.
– When negotiating artist contracts, are there particular points you try to include or remove?
In some contracts, it says that disputes have to be resolved in an arbitration court, which is a private court where you have to pay your own legal fees, but it’s behind closed doors and the results aren’t made public. Those clauses are common from bigger companies where they don’t want information to be revealed, but I tend to remove them in favor of a public court because it generally benefits the artist I’m representing.
– I’ve heard that you have a relationship with Ninja Tune. Tell me about that.
I’m their sub-publisher. They approached me at MIDEM some years ago and said they didn’t have a publisher in the Nordic territories. They asked if I wanted to represent them and I said yes, so now I work with their catalog. I’ve managed to get them a few sync placements over the years, but my job is mainly to collect their PRO payouts, make sure their songs are registered properly and sort out agreements if someone wants to sample their masters.
– Is it true that you’ve also worked with some bigger music companies like Playground or Kobalt Music?
No, but I have consulted artists they wanted to sign. Most contracts have a clause saying
that the artists should seek professional advice before signing, so I sometimes fill that role.
It’s also a safety precaution for the company because the artist has to understand the nature of the contract, what rights they have, and the ones they’ll turn over to the label. I’d also discuss the artists expectations and make sure they understand the difference between the record label and a publishing company. We also make sure they have agreements with their producers and songwriters.
– What are some of the most notable cases you’ve been part of as a lawyer?
I’m not really a lawyer who litigates much. I’ve negotiated contracts for some bigger artists and was able to win some trademark infringement cases, but even whilst at law school, I was always more interested in working with artist agreements. For example, if you start a band with your friends, who owns the band name? Should we register it as a trademark? Who decides what manager to choose? Every artist group is a business, and it’s seldom that they make decisions through formal meetings and structure. This can lead to internal conflicts later on, and I like to help before that happens. That said, I have worked on some lawsuits by preparing arguments and material, but another lawyer would always handle the arguments in court.
– Aside from being a lawyer you were also a manager for a group called I Am Karate. How did that experience go?
I’m not managing anyone currently. I was initially working with I Am Karate as their lawyer, but they couldn’t afford it after a certain point, so we tried the management setup for a while. As a lawyer, I charged by the hour or per gig, but as a manager I got a 20% commission, which meant they had to make a lot of money for me to do well. It ultimately didn’t work out, so we decided to stop. But they’re releasing new music again, which I think is great.
– What does your typical hourly rate look like?
It’s 2000kr plus VAT, though I only charge for actual work done. Very often, clients want me to offer a fixed fee, which can be difficult. I can do that for drafting and reviewing agreements, but for anything beyond that, I’d use an hourly rate.
– You became the head of the organization for Swedish indie labels (SOM) in 2019. What led to that?
For about 30 years, Jonas Sjöström was the chairman of SOM. He owns Playground Music and was the one who recruited me to MNW. He’s also a co-founder of Impala, the European trade association for indie labels. Anders Engström took over as SOM’s chairman after Jonas stepped down in 2011, and I took over when Anders left in 2019. I was already on the board, so when SOM needed a new chairman, they asked if I was up for it and I agreed. I was also on the board of the Music Publishers Associations (Musikförläggarna), so I had to step down from that to become the head of SOM.
– Can you talk about some of the benefits that SOM offers to its members?
Sure. We have courses where we share our knowledge about the industry and we try to make sure our members are aware of the challenges of having a label. We also examine technological trends and provide feedback to Impala who negotiate with EU politicians. Sweden is the third biggest music exporter in the world, which includes not just the majors but a lot of indies too. It’s been the US, UK and Sweden for many years, and that’s in spite of lesser amounts of money being given to the music industry by our government, as well as not having the best climate for live performance.
SOM also opens our doors to music journalists by way of our award show, Manifestgalan, where we try to highlight the different kinds of music released by indie labels. The jury is made of over 100 journalists and music enthusiasts. We had our 20th anniversary this year, and gave out awards to indie releases in 22 different categories. Winners get a statue and the Rookie Of The Year gets a cash prize.
There’s also Manifestdagen where we discuss current industry topics, the future, newcomers to the business, etc.
– What’s the difference between organizations like SOM, IFPI, Impala and SAMI?
SOM is the world’s oldest trade association for independent record companies. We’re members of Impala, the European trade organization and lobby organization for indie music companies where we discuss industry matters. We also have a collaboration with IFPI, which is an international organization that represents the bigger labels. SOM used to administer our member’s rights, but we made an agreement with IFPI where they collect payouts and license music for our members, as well as manage the neighboring rights for record companies, which makes it more cost-efficient for us. They work closely with SAMI, the collecting society for Swedish performers, to license recordings as a package to restaurants, radio stations, etc.
– You said that Sweden is currently the third largest music exporter. How much of that has to do with the legacy of Denniz Pop and Max Martin in the 90s/2000s?
Their work is of course very significant for Sweden’s export of songwriters and
producers, but there were also examples prior to Cheiron with groups like ABBA.
What they and Stikkan Anderson achieved with a small Swedish group that wrote songs in English was remarkable. Sure, winning Eurovision helped, but they still had to write additional songs after that, and it was the first instance of real music export success for us as a country. Prior to that, we had Blue Swede and Björn Skifs, but ABBA made a real career as one of the biggest artists in the world. Then came Roxette and Europe. We also had MNW and Stockholm Records who exported metal bands and indie pop, plus there was a big wave in Japan thanks to acts like The Wannadies and The Cardigans.
– What kinds of public funding options exist for indie labels in Sweden?
There’s Konstnärsnämden, which offers grants for individual creators. If you’re a group, Kulturrådet has funding for both marketing or international collaborations. You can also apply to them as a label to record, produce or market an album. STIM and SKAP offer grants to songwriters and there’s crowdfunding solutions through Patreon and pre-order campaigns that let you package stuff with your music, like merch and music videos. A couple of years ago, the EU started an initiative to incentivize banks to loan money to artists, but only one Swedish bank picked up on it, which was Marginalen Bank, but it’s unfortunately been discontinued.
Compared to when I started 30 years ago, it’s now much cheapher to market a record but the landscape is very fragmented. Many of us have Facebook accounts, but I’m not on Facebook as often as I was a decade ago, and most younger people aren’t on it at all. So it can be challenging if you’re an artist who isn’t tech savvy and isn’t interested in social media. You’ll eventually need some kind of digital platform to reach your audience.
– With the outlook you have of the Swedish music business as the head of SOM, who would you say are the country’s most notable indie labels?
That’s a difficult question – I think Startracks is a cool label that’s been around for over 30 years. They released acts like Fireside and Christian Kjellvander. There’s also Year0001, who’ve released Yung Lean.
– What about notable A&Rs?
If we’re talking about people who solely worked as A&Rs, I can think of David Mortimer Hawkins and Anders Johannson, who both came from Stockholm Records.
– And who would you say is the most notable music lawyer in Stockholm, other than yourself?
We all have our different areas of expertise, but I think Ström Advokatbyrå is good, and one of their partners, Jerker Edström, is a really smart guy.
– Many thanks for talking to me Eva. It’s been a pleasure. What will the rest of the year be like for you? Is anything happening with MahRoot?
Mah Root is my own band and I’m finishing up our debut album, despite not having as much time for it as I’d like. We’ll be playing some gigs throughout the fall and I’m also releasing a song with a Gambian Djemba player and spoken word artist called Papa J. Additionally, I’m working on my book about the music industry and I teach business law at Nyköping, which I really like. It’s nice to give people the tools they need to avoid difficulties in the industry.