Co-operatives ROCK: Swedish co-op heavy metal bands

The region of Värmland in Sweden has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘co-operatives rock’ – as over the last year, they have seen a big rise in...

The region of Värmland in Sweden has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘co-operatives rock’ – as over the last year, they have seen a big rise in a number of heavy metal bands deciding to become co-operatives. 

In 2006 Sparzanza, a heavy metal band from the region, after almost ten years together, started to become tired of their current record label and decided to set up their own company.

With very little money, they stumbled upon the idea of setting up as a co-operative. Johann Carlsson, the bassist in the band, admitted: “I didn’t know anything, it was actually a coincidence – and we have learnt along the way.”

Johan explained: “even if we had started a different kind of company, we would still be a democracy, everyone in the band is equal to everyone else.”

By setting up as a co-op, every band member is involved in all the decisions and everything is shared, though he added with amusement: “there aren’t really any profits – if there are any profits left, we’ll share them.”

The band didn’t realise what impact this idea would have on the rest of the region. Influenced by Sparzanza, bands such as Eyes Wide Open, who reached number three in the local charts, also became co-ops. Anna Tyren from the local co-op agency, Värmland Kooperativen explained: “It is a very good way for artists to organise themselves, they get all the rights over the music, and share it together.”

As far as Värmland Kooperativen are aware, this is totally unique to their area. Leif Tyren, manager of the organisation said that when they went to the Quebec International Summit of Co-operatives, “no one from all over the world had heard of co-op bands.”

It was out of this that Headbang Entertainment was born, an idea by Eyes Wide Open to help new bands set up and develop as co-ops. The project has been widely praised and came second in a competition for best co-op idea in Sweden this year.

There are nearly 50 bands in the city of Karlstad, hometown to Eyes Wide Shut, who could end up working with Headbang. Anna said: “I think a lot of bands will be setting up as co-ops.”

Beyond Headbang Entertainment, the idea is spreading – Anna explained she was working with four new bands that want to set up as co-ops. To celebrate the new phenomenon, Värmland Kooperativen decided to set up a Co-operative Rock festival for four bands including Sparzanza and Eyes Wide Open.

The event was a success with over 600 attendees and a review in Sweden’s best selling rock magazine.

Anna added: “All of those bands who have started as a co-op, all of them have something that they would like to share with others and to build a better world in a way.”

As for Sparzanza who started the craze in 2006, they won best co-operative in the region this year for their work. When asked if he would recommend becoming a co-op to other bands, Johan replied: “I would, I really would.”

Do you know of any other co-operative bands? Send us your stories!

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