Playlists on streaming services have become increasingly popular and more powerful as a means of spreading new music. One of the biggest growing concerns of 2016 was that these playlists might increase the dominance of a rather small number of (mainly) North American artists, driven by their popularity in the U.S – the world’s largest market. Artists such as Justin Bieber, Drake, and The Chainsmokers having spent long runs at the top of the charts globally has further driven the discussion.
However, it is interesting note that Sweden has a different take on this. Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter has been examining the overseas success of local artists, fuelled by Spotify particularly. It notes that songs that become successful in the Nordic countries have a bigger chance of landing up on playlists that get spread globally.
Nordic tracks were listened to 1.4bn times globally on Spotify, with more than 60% of the listeners to Swedish artists coming from outside their homeland. Tove Lo and Zara Larsson are two of the biggest Swedish acts, being the 29th and 25th most popular artists on Spotify worldwide. Mike Perry whose ‘The Ocean’ track has been a global house hit with 313.3m streams is listed as another breakthrough example.
“The Nordic market is mature and has many users on streaming services, so when a song becomes a hit in the Nordic countries, it often gets on the global top charts, giving it a trampoline effect” says Eva Laegdsgaard Madsen, responsible for Scandinavian label collaboration on Spotify. Over the past three years, Swedish revenue from music played abroad has increased – from 31% to 36%, according to the Swedish music industry organization STIM. And between 2009 and 2015, revenues from the Swedish music exports increased by 1 billion crowns (around 87 million pounds).
Lukas Graham is another Nordic-turned-global success story. The Danish band had a massive breakout with their hit ‘7 Years’, which was the product of a carefully worked campaign by the their labels and Spotify. Dagens Nyheter acknowledges however, the tensions even in Sweden around the spoils of global success for local artists.
“Streaming still mainly benefits those with very large catalogues – like the major labels,” suggests Per Herrey from the Swedish Musicians Union. Nevertheless, Nordic up-and-coming artists have a great advantage in the streaming world, and the more Spotify grows in popularity, the more we will probably see new Swedish artists on the rise.
Words by Nina Vasu
Featured Photograph: Johannes Helje (Tove Lo)