Russ spending on music is ‘absurd’

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The annual “Russ” season kicked off over the Easter break, the start of weeks of raucous celebrations for graduating Norwegian high school students. Students spend a small fortune each year kitting out customized Russ buses, but a new trend has emerged where students are spending up to NOK 150,000 (USD 25,000) on their own professionally-produced theme music.

The 25 girls behind the Russ bus 'Senses' spent more than NOK 1 million customizing their ride, including white leather seats, a graffiti-style facade and a huge sound system. But they said their biggest expense was original theme music, spending about NOK 150,000 on three songs. Original songs are a growing trend among Russ students, but some in the music industry said they're paying an "absurd" amount. PHOTO: facebook.com/senses2014

The 25 girls behind the Russ bus ‘Senses’ spent more than NOK 1 million customizing their ride, including white leather seats, a graffiti-style facade and a huge sound system. But they said their biggest expense was original theme music, spending about NOK 150,000 on three songs. Original songs are a growing trend among Russ students, but some in the music industry said they’re paying an “absurd” amount. PHOTO: facebook.com/senses2014

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) surveyed students to see how many had paid for original music for their Russ bus. It found Russ students were paying anywhere between NOK 50,000 to 100,000 on songs alone. There are 149 buses and cars with their own Russ music registered online, some with multiple songs to suit different Russ events.

“One song we paid NOK 80,000 for,” said Vilde Axelsen, one of the 25 girls from the ‘Senses’ Russ bus. “The second we paid NOK 45,000 for. The last one was homemade, so we paid only NOK 10,000 for it. That’s around NOK 150,000 all together.” The music was the single biggest expense for the girls, who have together spent more than NOK 1 million on a white leather interior, graffiti-style exterior, and huge sound system in their bus.

Russ students wear coloured overalls and carry personalized calling cards during the celebration period, and travel around in vans or buses to events and dance parties. Buses are awarded prizes in different categories, including best theme, best sound, best lighting and the prestigious ‘bus of the year’.

Career launchpad
Andreas Haukeland began producing Russ songs under his stage name ‘Tix’ after his girlfriend asked him for some music for her bus a couple of years ago. “I think there are very many newcomers who want to fight their way into this environment,” he said. “And there are so many buses that there aren’t any problems getting into the market if you really want to.”

He wouldn’t reveal exactly how much he earns producing Russ music, but said students are spending more and more on original tunes. “The Russ spend much more money on songs now,” Haukeland said. “In 2011 Russ songs took off. Since then there’s been much more money in the market.”

Norwegian house musicians Ulrik Denizou Lund and Ketil Jansen got together in high school in 2010 to make a Russ song. It launched their band Lemaitre, and the duo have since played at the world’s biggest music industry festival South By Southwest, and signed a record deal with an international label. While they admitted the Russ genre is considered quite low brow, they said it’s a great launchpad for aspiring musicians.

“We would probably not have done it under the same name, no,” Jansen told NRK. “But it is great for new artists. It is a way they can earn money from their music from the start. I did it for three years under the name ‘Ketz’.”

‘Absurd’ spending
Hip hop entrepreneur and music producer Gunnar Greve said many of the Russ songs were produced to a high standard, and he even made one himself several years ago. But he warned the students were paying ridiculous sums.

“That is an awful lot of money,” he said. “That is double what I recommend an average artist should use on a single. It is actually absurd. I advise no one to spend so much money on Russ songs. It is with Russ music as it is with all other music. Money is not synonymous with quality.”

The money itself illustrates years of rising affluence in Norway, but not all of it comes from the Russ’ parents. Many of the young Russ quickly note that they’ve saved or earned the money themselves, working at various jobs over the years leading up to Russ celebrations. Asked whether he really thinks it’s worth it, to spend so much on a few weeks of partying, one 19-year-old told newsinenglish.no last year, “oh, yeah, definitely,” and seemed to think it was a silly question.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate