As playlists on the big streaming services become ever-more powerful, one of the talking points of 2016 has been the fear that these playlists may increase the dominance of a relatively small number of (mainly) North American artists, driven by their popularity in the world’s largest market, the US. Long runs at the top of charts around the world for Justin Bieber, Drake and The Chainsmokers have stoked the discussion.
It’s interesting to read a different take on this from Sweden, though. Dagens Nyheter has been exploring the overseas success of local artists, fuelled by Spotify in particular. It notes that in March alone, Nordic tracks were listened to 1.4bn times globally on Spotify, with more than 60% of the listening to Swedish artists specifically coming from outside their homeland.
Tove Lo and Zara Larsson are cited as two of the big success stories: when Music Ally checked this morning, they were the 29th and 25th most popular artists on Spotify globally, with 16.6 million and 18.6 million monthly listeners respectively. Swedish artist Mike Perry, whose ‘The Ocean’ track has been a global tropical-house hit with 313.3m streams, is cited as another breakthrough example.
“The Nordic market is mature and has many users on streaming services, so when a song emerges in the Nordic countries, it will often end up on the global chart, giving it a trampoline effect,” Spotify’s Eva Lægdsgaard Madsen told Dagens Nyheter. The article also includes figures from Swedish collecting society STIM, which claims that overseas markets now account for 36% of Swedish music revenues, up from 31% three years ago.
We’ve seen other Nordic-to-global success stories in 2016: for example, Lukas Graham’s breakout from Denmark with their track ‘7 Years’ was the result of a carefully-worked campaign by their labels and Spotify. However, note too Dagens Nyheter’s acknowledgement of the tensions even in Sweden around the spoils of global success for local artists.
Per Herrey from the Swedish Musicians’ Union suggested that streaming still “mainly benefits those with very large catalogues – the major record labels” who have not done enough to improve artist royalties in the streaming age, even with the removal (for streaming) of costs like physical packaging and distribution. This is the music industry after all: more money rarely means less reasons to argue about how it’s divided.