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Meet Kristian Riis of NordicLA in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristian Riis.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a Danish musician and entrepreneur and my mission is to break down borders and walls to create a dialogue between human beings around the world through art and creativity.

I grew up in the northern part of Denmark and started to play guitar when I was around 12 years old. Once a month I was sitting in a circle with 15 of my mom’s friends all playing guitar was my inspiration to learn how to play the guitar. My biggest dream was to find a band that I could make big and when I was 21 my friend Simon and I founded the Danish band Nephew in 1996. Fast forward today we have been together for 24 years, we have won 13 Danish Grammys and last year we did the biggest arenatour in Denmark ever.

Parallel to that career, I have been working in the music industry and back in 2004 I founded the national Danish Music Export Office, MXD. Back then, I was arranging tours around the world and around 2005, I came to Los Angeles for the first time and fell in love.

In 2008 I co-founded Volcano, a music company that have been managing 25 of the biggest Danish music acts, started two music festival, a 550 cap. seated Music Venue in the heart of Copenhagen and the biggest Night Club too.

In 2014 we took a break with Nephew and I moved to Los Angeles to write an album for my side project True Nord together with René Thalund – the keyboard player from Nephew. During that time, I was contacted by a lot of nordic artists and creative people asking me for help to enter the US market and in 2017, I founded and began NordicLA – a Culture Embassy and business platform for Nordic and Scandinavian artists and creative companies. My business partner Dylan Berry are running the daily business and the team in Los Angeles – and Christian Sondergaard is running the team in Copenhagen.

Today I am mainly back in Copenhagen (due to the COVID-19 situation) and as an entrepreneur, I am in involved in different start up´s – everything from fashion to business development – and I am investing in Nordic Tech Companies as a partner in ByFounders – a tech VC found that have raised 100 Euros to invest in some of the best tech companies. I also co-founded the tech company Backscatter together with nordic tekno anthropologists from Aalborg University, Copenhagen. I also recently invested in a CS:GO E-sports team Alpha.

I like the fact that I am both a creative but also believe that to make sustainable projects it’s important to see my (creative) projects as a business. For me both worlds are very exciting and even though I don’t have a business education (I only have a bachelor’s degree in Music and Communication from Aarhus University) – I love to start projects and to see them become financial sustainable.

Around 2010 the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs in Denmark hired me to help creative companies to help them build internationalizations strategies.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I do believe all roads are winding. But I do realize more and more that I have been very privileged growing up in Denmark. Free healthcare, free education (the Danish government paid me a monthly salary to study), strong social safety net, not much crime and so on.

And today, I know I am a very privileged white male living very safe place in this world and that have opened my eyes to understand that I don’t have to be afraid of ending up on the streets and starve. I am very aware of that not all people in this world are in the same situation – that we do have gender, climate and race issues and I as an artist and an entrepreneur have to do everything I can to contribute to a better future and world. One of the projects we are doing in NordicLA is a project called Create 17 where we are building a platform for artist around the world where they can contribute and be part of a community that thrives to make a better world – and hopefully reach the 17 UN Goals – the SDG´s – in 2030.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with NordicLA – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I am proud of NordicLA as a home away from home for Nordic creatives and artists. I am really happy about our team behind NordicLA and that we do provide help to give Nordic people a safe entry to the big US market. We do work both with the individual artists, the creative companies and the governments in the Nordic Countries. We are known for being the bridge between the US and the Nordic Countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland.)

This fall we are doing a bunch of talks inspiring artists to get the best out of the Covid-19 situation. We want to give them hope and inspiration to move forward. We also do three virtual songwriting camps with the best American and nordic music writers and producers. We also da an All-Female camp – I am very excited to create better conditions especially for female producers. They rock and we want to show that to the world!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have been turning our business into more virtual formats but we will hopefully also do more physical events sooner than later… One thing I’m looking forward to is to launch the Nordic Music Week next year. A hybrid event between the US and the Nordics with the best music writers and music industry professionals.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Christian Sondergaard

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