Women in Vinyl Logo

Lena Graaf | Label Owner, GMR Music

We’re pleased to introduce you this week to Lena Graaf, who comes recommended by a few readers and is a badass all around, but in particular in the Swedish heavy music scene.  Lena runs a small record label, and distribution company focused on hard rock and metal, called GMR Music Group.

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

Since I started listening to music, playing music, collecting music when I was around the age of 8-9 years back in the 70s, I was always motivated to get into the music business somehow. I just loved music!  However, I realized when I was around 15 that I was better at running fan clubs, doing fanzines and tape trading, then I was playing an instrument and singing so I focused more on that rather than trying to become an artist.  When I was around 16-18 I had set up a small side business to my day job, doing vinyl and CD mailorder and buying/selling at record fairs, managing bands, some tour booking etc. From then on it just grew…

From a one man show, to a two man show, to having 25 employees, a big export/import company, a record label and 2 record stores, haha. I have to mention that the first person who got me into music was our bus driver on the school bus. He was blasting out Creedence Clearwater Revival in the bus, I was 7 years old, and I just loved it!  Almost every day, the same music! Cheers to him!

What is a day in the life like?

A day in my work life these days is quite a bit different from when I first got into the industry. I start quite early for being in the music business, around 7.  Most days its just computer work, where its a lot of emails going backwards and forwards, getting production parts into places, co-ordinating and planning releases with distributors, PR, sales, and making marketing plans. Assisting artists with different things as well. I also do some consulting/management for other companies and artists. So pretty much like a “normal” office job I guess.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?

I’ve done a lot of cool things, haha, but haven’t worked on so many cool things. Well, I guess it was pretty cool when I worked on the Peter Criss Solo album Cat #1, since Kiss was one of my favorite bands when I was younger. Peter himself called up in the middle of the night to discuss some details on the artwork of the vinyl / picture disc.

Also, It was quite cool to license the first four  W.A.S.P. albums on vinyl to my label, as they were another band I liked when I was younger. I think I was a bit ahead of time with doing vinyl. I licensed a lot of bigger name bands quite a while back, just before vinyl took off big again; at that time it was actually quite hard to sell vinyl and now I see a lot of those titles I licensed for vinyl extremely high priced on eBay etc.

Anyway, Its always cool to hold a brand new vinyl release that you’ve been involved with in your hands, whatever the artist it is!

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

These days the most difficult part is to say ”I’m sorry but I can’t sign your band at this point”. Since there are so many talented artists out there its too bad that the market is what it is and the streaming has taken over, so you have to be much more selective on what to release.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

I think its a good idea to start a business on the side of your normal job, start off small and build-up.

Talk to people in the same field that you want to be in, get advice, ask questions, learn.

Today the internet is full of webinars, ideas etc so dig into it! Don’t pay out a lot of money in advance whatever you do. Set budgets and follow them, think small and be pleasantly surprised!

If you meet somebody with a big mouth in the music business, assume they are full of sh**, haha, and they can’t help you with anything.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

I do buy vinyl, quite a lot in fact. But I don’t collect a particular band anymore like I did before. I sold off my collections of particular artists that I used to collect. It was too much, but I still have some really cool collectible vinyl that I will never get rid off no matter what. Now I just buy good records to listen to.

I can’t answer what drew me into it, I was just always into music and I guess vinyl just came natural.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.

The vinyl situation of course has been and is still quite worrying when you hear some labels and artists have to wait between 8-12 months to get their vinyl pressed. I’m quite lucky with my pressing plant since I’m a long term customer, and I also try to offer other labels and artists to press through my connections. There are more and more pressing plants opening but I also hear some scary stories from labels and artists who get bad quality pressings, bad service, etc. It’s not an easy situation when theres more demand than supply, and prices are going up constantly. It’s worrying and I don’t know what the solution is.

Also, I’m not so keen on when major labels (mostly) press five million colors of the same record just to squeeze as much money as possible from the die-hard fans. Sure, its fun with colored vinyl, but maybe not a color for each country in the world and each store in every country…haha, well you know what I mean.

During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?

The times have certainly been pretty tough for everybody these last few years, and the music business is of course no exception. Supporting bands is best done by buying their stuff on bandcamp, websites, etc., and of course when going to the shows!

Anything else you’d like to add, if not tell me what you’re listening to:

I have way to many favorite bands/genres to mention, but right now I am listening to the new Dorothy album.

Find Lena: 

Instagram: @gmrmusicgroup


GMR Music: @gmrmusic

Lena: @lenakgraaf

Website: www.gmrmusic.se

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