Losen Records: New Norwegian Sounds
The adventure in Spain is a fairly new chapter in the story of Losen Records. Gjelsnes also has a long history of collaboration with the famous engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug: "For many years, I had the privilege and the pleasure of staying in the Rainbow Studio together with Manfred Eicher and Jan Erik Kongshaug during several ECM recording sessions. This way I got to know Jan Erik quite well and I am sure I learned a lot about the recording process and how to listen to the music during the recordings. It only feels natural to continue my cooperation with Jan Erikeven with my own studio in Spain. For some recordings, it might be more practical to do the recording in Oslo rather than in Spain."
Gjelsnes knows Eicher from his job as a music distributor. This was his entry into the record industry, but he has a long history of working with records: "I never was a talent for being a musician, but wanted to work in the music business and got myself a job as an export manager in Express Record Service in England around 1973/1974. They were one of the biggest mail order companies for LPs at that time. After 1 year in England, I came back to Norway and started a record shop (Ausonia) in the small town Kongsvinger. I soon found out that no one in Norway was specializing in taking care of the distribution of jazz LPs from all the fine independent jazz labels around. With my shop as a base, I started a distribution with SteepleChase, Nessa, Gramavision and a few other labels.
This business was growing quickly and not before long, I got a message from Manfred Eicher that ECM was looking for a reliable distributor in Norway and wanted me to come down to München for a meeting. At the same time, a group of people in Oslo were planning to merge the Norwegian classical music, the folk music and jazz into one strong independent company. I closed down my shop Ausonia, joined them and moved to Oslo, brought ECM and all the other labels I had into this company. This way Musikkdistribusjon was born. My career in Musikkdistribusjon lasted about 10 years until 1995. In 1997, I started my own distribution company, MusikkLosen. Most of the labels that were under my responsibility in Musikkdistribusjon followed me into MusikkLosen."
When Gjelsnes later started a record label, he chose a name that was related to his distribution company: "MusikkLosen means The Music Pilot so when finding a name for the label, it obviously had to be Losen Records."
Gjelsnes was happy working as a distributor, but then the crisis of the record industry came, which, ironically, allowed him to change track and do what he had always dreamt of doing: "MusikkLosen had some fantastic years as a distributor for jazz, classical and world/folk music. I have always wanted to have my own record label, but due to very good sales and very busy days in MusikkLosen, I did not have the time until the downloading and the streaming issue started to be a bad competitor for the CD sale in 2009-2010. I was annoyed by the fact that most record shops closed down and it became very difficult to sell CDs. I have always liked the CD as a media and I thought, as strange as it may sound, that maybe now is the right time to start a record label. It was more or less in protest against most of the music journalists in Norway that every week predicted the death of the CD and kept on with this negative writing. Like they had an agenda to get rid of the CD."
Reflecting on the development in the record industry, Gjelsnes says: "Now a couple of years later, the journalists have to admit that they were wrong on one issue. Downloading and streaming are good for the major companies (Sony, Universal etc.). For the independent smaller labels it has proven to be a disaster, at least so far."
Gjelsnes took another path. He had known the pianist Dag Arnesen and his trio from his work as distributor and asked them to become part of his new label: "They were looking towards Sony and Universal for their next release, I asked themwhat if I started a record label. Would that be of interest for you? This was the start of Losen Records." The record was the third installment of Arnesen's Norwegian Song trilogy and became an instant success and later Gjelsnes re-released the other parts of the trilogy on his new label.