And the biggest music-streaming service in the Nordics is…


If you just completed that sentence with ‘Spotify’, sorry, that’s not the answer. At least, it’s not the answer according to the 2018 Polaris Nordic Digital Music Survey, which is published by collecting societies Koda, Teosto and Tono.

This year’s survey quizzed nationally-representative samples of more than 1,000 people in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden this September, and found that while 54% had used Spotify to stream music in the last year, 74% had used YouTube.

The caveat: engagement with music is higher on Spotify: the study found its free users average 6.8 hours a week on the service, and its paying subscribers 10.5 hours, compared to YouTube users’ four hours a week.

The findings will be read with interest around the world, because they offer a view on what listener behaviour looks like in some of the most mature music-streaming countries, including Spotify’s homeland.

Other findings from the study: 43% of respondents are premium subscribers to streaming services, which seems like a good conversion rate. Yet the percentage using only free services to stream music has grown from 40% in 2017 to 47% in 2018.

One question is whether Finland is skewing the results. Just over 1,000 interviews were conducted in each of the four countries, yet only 26% of Finns have a music subscription, compared to 46% of Danes, 50% of Norwegians and 51% of Swedes.

While the overall percentage of people only using free services is 47%, it’s only 38% in Norway, 40% in Denmark and 41% in Sweden. That said, all three countries showed a rise in this statistic – up from 33%, 31% and 35% respectively in 2017. So there is a concern here.

Across the four countries, 90% of respondents have used at least one music-streaming in the last year, with the average listener spending more than 11 hours streaming a week. There’s a difference between free and paying streamers though: free users average just over nine hours a week, while subscribers average nearly 16 and a half hours.

The survey also found that 20% of respondents use Facebook for watching music videos (or videos containing music) while 11% use Instagram for this purpose.

Meanwhile, radio is still an important medium for music discovery in this region: when asked how they found their latest good track, 36% ticked the “I heard it on the radio” box – even in streaming’s heartlands. That’s considerably ahead of YouTube, friends and other streaming services, which each polled 11%.

(One curious aspect: Apple Music isn’t mentioned in the report, although ‘iTunes’ ranks fifth across the four countries, used by 10% of respondents.)

In the quotes from the three societies, the free streaming looms large.

“The recent explosion in digital music consumption is a very positive thing: it testifies to how the legal and well-functioning streaming services are easily available and accessible and have become part of everyday life. However, the number of people who use free services are, sadly, significant, said Koda CEO Anders Lassen.

“We are happy to see that more and more people are choosing paid premium subscriptions, but the ‘transfer of value’ problem still needs fixing. Social media is also widely used for music consumption. It is necessary that online services, which use music as a part of their business, pay a share of their revenue to the creators of the music”, said Teosto CEO Risto Salminen.

“Streaming services are still growing, and music is more easily available than ever before. We are pleased to see that so many people in the Nordics now prefer the premium subscriptions, and that they are happy to pay for their music consumption. However, the free services are still widely used, which makes it difficult for songwriters to make a decent living from music creation. We are particularly upset about the large use of music on Facebook not contributing to the livelihood for the songwriters,” said Tono CEO Cato Strøm.

(Facebook *does* have music-licensing deals with a number of labels, publishers and collecting societies elsewhere in the world. Tono, you can surmise, is banging on the company’s door for a similar agreement covering its members.)

There is plenty more to parse in the study, which you can find here.

Written by: Stuart Dredge