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progress productions Torny 02Interview with

Torny Gottberg (owner) from Progress Productions Label

Progress Productions is a prominent independent record label based in Sweden, known for its focus on electronic music, particularly genres like Synth-Pop, EBM (Electronic Body Music), and Industrial music. Founded in 2004 by Torny Gottberg, who has a deep background in the music industry, the label has grown to be one of the key players in the Scandinavian electronic music scene.

Torny Gottberg, the founder of Progress Productions, is a significant figure in the electronic music community. Aside from running Progress Productions, he is involved in music distribution and creates music of his own as CRYO and PROJECT X. His extensive experience and passion for music have driven the label’s success. Gottberg is known for his keen ear for talent and commitment to promoting and supporting innovative electronic music artists. Under Gottberg’s leadership, Progress Productions has become known for its quality releases and for nurturing talented artists. The label is respected for its contributions to the electronic music genre and continues to influence the industry by exploring new sounds and pushing the boundaries of electronic music. To celebrate 20th anniversary of the label Torny agreed to dive a bit into the past and discuss his artistic way - both as a label owner and a musician.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: How do you feel about the 20st anniversary of your label?
Torny: Honestly, it feels a little strange that time has passed so fast. It does not feel like it was 2004 and we took our first stumbling steps with Progress after I quit the label Energy Rekords. But I’m really proud of what we have created as a label together with all the artists. We have released around 200 releases on different formats over the years. But well, 20 is just a figure right!? Now let’s aim for the forthcoming 20. But like I said, I’m really happy about it and 2024 will be full of small surprises along the way to our big Progress 20 festival which is in Gothenburg on the 16th of November.

RoD: What was the spark that motivated you to create Progress Productions, and what were your initial visions for the label’s impact on music?
Torny: The main spark was for sure that I felt that many labels were not signing new artists. At the time it felt like everyone was just betting of “safe cards” and license deals for specific markets. I did not really see any joy in working like this, my idea of a label was to find and build new artists. And like a “family” almost. That we could all grow together to something bigger all along the way. I was looking at labels such as Cold Meat Industry and Ant-Zen and the way they worked, and this became the way I really wanted to build Progress. So, I started up in 2004 with just a minimum amount of cash (5,000 euros) and only three bands. The idea was to never release two records at the same time but to keep focus on the current release we had. PROCD001 became PROCD002 became PROCD003 and so on. But the initial vision was something we had together artist and label and that we worked towards small goals that we reached, and everyone could enjoy each other’s success. It’s actually the same way I want to keep Progress now 20 years later. And I still try to just focus on one release at a time to give the artist my full attention and focus.

RoD: Reflecting on your journey with Progress Productions, could you describe some significant challenges you’ve encountered and the strategies you used to navigate them What criteria do you use to identify and select artists for Progress Productions, and what qualities do you believe define a perfect fit for your label?
Torny: Well, the biggest challenge was of course to get attention in the media. And I would still say that it is until today. But I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted Progress Productions to be. So, I started setting my plan together with distribution and co-operations with different partners, many of them I still work with today. I guess this is simply the way I work, if something works and you have a good co-operation why change it!? There is so many changing distributions etc. to here-there but well the grass is seldom greener on the other side. If you have strong partner which you enjoy working with then simply stick to it. But to back to the problem with reaching out the audience there is no “short cuts” it’s always a lot of work behind every release and it takes countless days / nights to promote a release. When it comes to signing a perfect fit to the label it’s hard to say. I really value the people behind the music just as much as the music. It’s really important that this works 100% otherwise it will simply end up badly and this will of course happen during 20 years that some bands grow too big or they simply think they are bigger than they are. I mean we should all understand that we are working within a “subgenre” which is quite small, and I do not have the time or drive to just have bands to boost their personal egos. I have been really lucky and blessed to have so much talented people signed to Progress and I’m really happy for the once we built but then parted. Life is too short to be bitter. But my best advice to anyone that is thinking about starting a label is to make sure that the personal chemistry works and that you set goals which is reachable.

RoD: How have you observed the evolution of the music industry since the inception of Progress Productions, and how has the label evolved in response to these changes?
Torny: The music industry has undergone huge changes and challenges during the past two decades but also opened new doors to artists and labels. Of course, the biggest change must the one from physical based to digital streaming. But I don’t see streaming of a way to eliminate the physical. We are speaking about technology, and you can’t reverse time how much you want. So, I think it´s important to adapt and keep up. But I like the idea of both sides (physical / digital) to co-exist. Of course, you maybe not sell 5,000 copies of a release. But on the other hand, nowadays I think maybe the labels have a bigger task as a “filter” of music. With the digital also made the DIY (Do It Yourself) boom. One of course good / bad. The problem is that the market is extremely full and it´s really hard for an up-and-coming band to breakthrough. But you simply need to try and find ways around it not being afraid of exploring and finding solutions as a small independent label. And if you put your heart, brain, and souls in it and never give up. You will succeed. You just need to be creative in a different way when you don’t have a big pile of money to spend. But on the other hand, finding these solutions and building your fanbase will grow you much stronger in the end. But of course, we also need to be more active on social media and such, things we didn’t need before. The news flow is so much quicker today than it used to be.

RoD: In what ways do you believe Progress Productions has influenced the electronic music scene in Scandinavia, and possibly beyond?
Torny: I’m not sure if we as Progress have influenced the scene. We are simply a label. The artists are the most important thing. We are simply a name. But I hope that many new bands maybe can see that it is possible to get somewhere with the help of Progress. If we have people that thinks this, then it’s amazing. And I hope the next and upcoming bands maybe can reach out to other Progress-acts and ask for advice. They can of course also reach out to me and I will always try to help them as good as I can. Maybe we have motivated others to at least try to run a small label but that’s just wishful thinking on my part of course. Maybe we have proven that it is possible to run a label in the electronic subgenres. Again, it’s really hard for me to judge this. But if this was the case it would be a dream.

progress productions Torny 01

RoD: Being an artist yourself (CRYO, PROJECT-X) - do you feel it’s easier to manage the bands or quite the contrary?
Torny: Well. Being a band and a label is really two different things for me. I really do keep them apart and CRYO does not get any “special treatment” just because I’m part of the band. I would maybe rather than say we have suffered as a band because of this. But of course, I mean it’s 30 years since we started up PROJECT-X this year and I have over the years gathered a lot of know-how and knowledge on different things which I can give the Progress artists as advice. We also have a “closed” Facebook group where we share ideas / tips / warn of bad promotors etc. The only really bands I do manage more nowadays is SPARK!, XENTURION PRIME and LUCIFER’S AID whom I also help out with bookings and stuff surrounding it. But many of the bands nowadays have deal with different concert agencies which are professional.

RoD: Looking ahead, where do you envision Progress Productions in the next five years, and are there any upcoming projects or directions that particularly excite you?
Torny: Hard to say. I really hope that we are still around and active. But it really is a struggle, and it takes a lot of my “free time” as I also have a fulltime job besides running Progress Productions and well, I’m not getting any younger either. But of course, as long as I find joy and feel we have a purpose I want to keep going forward. We are still building a lot of acts which I’m curious to see what will happen over the next years. It really takes quite some time to build artists. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are loads of hard work behind success. When it comes to directions, I have never really thought about it as Progress is a place I only release music that I personally like. I’m not interested in doing license deals with bigger artists. I do believe that we have top quality acts within Progress and I’m sure many of them will evolve to be “main players” within the scene. We just signed VEXAGON for example who is an artist I believe has enormous potential. But of course, he lives in the states and nowadays it’s really hard for bands to tour in Europe. Even when you look at bigger known acts, they do 2-3 shows / weekend and then have dates off then 2-3 shows then days off. This is really expensive but it’s a challenge to get people out on weekdays. But of course. Let’s hope we do a new interview when we celebrate 25 years and I can tell you what happened during 2024-2029.

RoD: Could you elaborate on how you foster the growth and development of your artists at Progress Productions? How hands-on is your approach in the creative process?
Torny: I always try and tell them that things do take time. Like I said earlier it’s really a lot of hard work behind the actual build-up of an artist. But in the creative process I NEVER point out what is right or what is not. I do think and believe the artists know their path and that they follow their artistic vision. The only thing we can do is support it in the all the best ways we can. One could say that Progress Productions is an art-gallery and that the records we release are paintings. I’m really humble about that artists hang their art in our “gallery” and that we get to expose it. But of course, if the bands ask, I can come with advice and inputs but I don’t think labels should point with their hands saying what’s right / wrong. It’s at least not my style of doing things. And like I told you a little bit earlier we also have these “closed” group where the bands hang out and can ask each other for advice along the way. However, I also tell the bands to know their value. The scene does not benefit from acts selling themselves too cheap. It´s the reverse. I mean I can totally understand that in the beginning you might want to take a few “freebee”-shows but when you have established yourself you should know your value. Don’t be afraid of asking for some money when doing shows etc. If you agree to play for low fees then you will experience it lots harder to ever raise this amount. Or at least this is what i have experienced over the years. You might lose a few shows of course. But on the other hand, the ones you do will be quality ones.

RoD: Among the many milestones for Progress Productions, which moments have been particularly memorable or transformative for you and your team?
Torny: There are really too many to mention as I explained we started with setting small reachable goals. And each of those goals has been a success for us for sure. But well. The actual start and the release of the first CD (8kHz MONO ‘Monochromator’ // PROCD001) was a special feeling. First review, first time we had a band on radio, a band on TV, first time we entered the official charts. All those moments are truly special, and I value them highly. But I would say the most rewarding thing is to see how the bands evolve and even the people behind it. I mean look at Oscar Holter in NECRO FACILITY for example. This little small kid who started to make very “SKINNY PUPPY-ish” music evolved to one of top producers in the world today (PINK, THE WEEKEND etc. etc.) it’s so rewarding and I’m so happy for him. Of course, the release of PROCD100 (3CD compilation) was also something of a milestone. But again, I still get that rush, that feeling when I hold a new product in my hands. I still get that. DAMN, we achieved this, we made it-feeling. And I guess as long as I get this there are a lot of memories to be built in the future.

RoD: Based on your experiences, what key piece of advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs aiming to launch their own music labels? Or release the albums on their own?
Torny: I always say: Don’t! Unless you are totally mad and insane... hahaha. Nah, of course do it but have in mind the enormous amount of time and energy you will need to invest in reaching somewhere. The first years are strictly a learning experience on both good and bad. Also know your audience and how to reach them and have an understanding how hard it is to reach them. Don’t give up because you have a few bumps or even landmines along the way because you WILL encounter them. Never listen to people bullshit and follow your own visions and ideas. And like i said set small reachable goals and celebrate each and every one of them. Make sure you run a label with the artists, not against them. It’s a 50/50 co-operation that needs to work in order to reach these goals. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to other labels out there. Most of them are not assholes and they are surely to help you out or point you in a right direction or share their thoughts on things. When it comes to artists releasing music on their own. Well, it´s a little different. Be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion which sometimes can be both boring and a pain in the ass. But if this is the path you want to walk then you should proceed doing it. However, I have personally always found it easier to work with a label (just looking at my own experience). But it’s a matter of how much time/money/effort you want to invest. There is no right or wrong path. Make you OWN path.

RoD: From the large amount projects you’ve spearheaded with Progress Productions, are there any that hold special significance to you personally or that you found particularly rewarding?
Torny: The love from the people supporting the label. Without a doubt this is THE one. 100%. Because without the support from them we simply would not have a label. We have had people buying every single release since day 1. And many of them I have had the chance to meet in reality and we have started a friendship. I have had the privilege to meet so many fantastic and wonderful people which I truly admire and love. I can’t address enough the gratefulness I feel towards these people. You are the best and beyond. I would also like to “lift-a-cheers” to everyone out there that does so much hard work to keep the scene alive. Magazines, promotors, DJ’s, clubs etc. You are truly stars that shine. Without this scene would vanish quickly. So, from the bottom of my heart. THANK YOU!

RoD: Thank you for your time!

All Pictures by Torny Gottberg

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