Next Generation Spotlight: Sam Sonntag

Audio Media International, in association with Genelec, is delighted to present our Next Generation Spotlight on Finnish producer and label owner Sam Sonntag.

As CEO of record label Collaboration Records and a full-time producer operating out of his own professional studio, Sonntag has achieved an incredible amount for someone who has only been working in the industry for the past five years. Here, he tells us about some of the defining moments in his career to date and discusses the challenges he has faced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic…

What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Sam Sonntag, CEO of Colla Records and working full time as a music producer from my own professional recording studio in Turku, Finland. I’ve been working full time since 2015 and today I am the producer for over 20 artists. I love my job and couldn’t be happier to be able to make a living making music.

What inspired you to get into studio work?
Back in 2015, I’d worked four summers in a row in a bank, and after studying economics for three years there was only one thing I strived to do. Make music. Whenever I got the chance I opened up my computer and started to do what I loved. Just before the summer holiday from school in 2016 I decided that I wouldn’t do a normal summer job – I rented a studio and started making music. I just had to do it. Since then I’ve never worked somewhere else. That decision changed everything in my life. Today I’m so happy I had the courage to follow the path I thought was right for me.

Tell us about your route into the industry?
At the beginning I only made music for myself. Trying to find what I’m supposed to do. Basically teaching myself and becoming better at mixing and producing. My first album was released in 2016, and got featured on 50 Finland on Spotify and on several other playlists. That was my way into the industry. Making music for others has also been a thing for me since the beginning, but it wasn’t until my band’s gigs with Sam Zimon stopped due to the coronavirus that I really started to focus on making music for others and building my own record label Colla Records. 

In March 2020 we had five artists on Colla Records. Now we are over 20 for whom I produce, mix and master. I do all three steps because I think it’s important for a music producer to understand every part of the process. I think it’s nearly impossible to make a good mix if you don’t know how to properly master a track. Everything is connected. I want to do all I can to make Colla Records one of Finland’s most successful record labels.

Tell us about some of the key projects you’ve worked on over the past 12 months?
Key project 1: Lilian Young

I’ve produced five tracks for a really great singer-songwriter. One song is already released and I really believe that she can make it. Her voice is just amazing.

Key project 2: Desperate Youth

I’ve done an album of seven tracks for Oskar Karlsson brainchild Desperate Youth. The genre is synth pop. His first release was featured by NINA, also called The Queen of Synth pop. Oskar has a great vision and I can’t wait for him to progress in his career.

Key project 3: Melissa A

Melissa has only one track released but I’ve produced seven tracks for her this year. She sings in Finnish and I think she has what it takes to make it as a pop star in Finland. 

Key project 4: Sam Zimon

My own band with whom we have over one million streams on Spotify. We decided to take a break from producing own music so that we could focus on growing the record label. Last month we started making music again. I’m really hyped about our upcoming stuff and I think that the break from releasing has had a positive impact on us. The single after the next one is also almost ready.

Key project 5: Tove Ljungqvist

In Finland we have a little minority speaking Swedish. Tove is vey famous in that minority. She sings in Swedish and was nominated for track of the year in Swedish speaking minority in Finland with her single ‘Vilse’, which I produced. This year I’ve done an album for Tove with five new tracks that will be released in 2021.

Key project 6: growing the record label. 

Here is the list of artists I’ve produced at least one track for this year: Susann Sonntag, Ami Aspelund, Andrea Irene, Laura Jansson, Tina Salminen, Dora Lagerspetz, Rocky Rinne, Thommy Fagerlund, Kalle Keto, Stella Wickström, Roni Näveri, Kalle Pajusalo, Miki A

What is your approach to work in the studio?
I am very determined. I wake up Monday-Friday at 7am, drink a cup of coffee and start making music. I work at least from 8am-5pm. Approximately two days a week I work late. I would say I make music about 50-60 hours a week depending on the deadlines and workload. It’s important for me to put in the hours. I believe that it’s the way to becoming the most successful music producer from Finland. I can’t handle the thought of someone else working more than myself, so I do it all to become the best. That said, I also play tennis to keep in good shape. If you don’t take care of yourself it’s hard to perform in the studio. I go to sleep at the same time every evening so that I will stay sharp the whole week.

Who/what have been some of the biggest influences in your career to date?
Easy question. Avicii. He is my hero and will always be. His destiny was so sad and I start to cry when I think of it. My mom has also played a huge part for me. She is an artist and has finished second twice in the Finnish qualification of Eurovision song contest.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
The coronavirus. We had everything planned for the year and every weekend was scheduled for gigs. All gigs got cancelled and our biggest income stream with it. We had to do something differently. That’s when the idea of growing the record label started. Today I’m proud of saying that we manage without playing gigs and make a living from working with Colla Records.

What projects do you have coming up?
All 20 artists of Colla Records will be making new music. I’ve also been forced to involve other producers in Colla Records to keep up with the pace and so that I’m able to provide for all the artists. That is a good problem though, and a good sign that we are going in the right direction. I will also focus more on getting Sam Zimon to the next level and will do my best balancing making music for others, while I also work on my own artist career under Sam Zimon.