Swedish music echoing around the whole world

1961 saw the formation of The Spotnicks, the first Swedish pop group to enjoy major international success. They were one of the most prominent instrumental guitar groups of their time.

But there were world-famous Swedish artistes long before that. Like Jenny Lind, for example.

In the 70s and 80s, people started to talk more and more about “the Swedish music miracle” as Sweden’s music exports grew. Abba, Roxette and Ace of Base could be heard coming out of speakers in the most remote corners of the world.

Nowadays people have (Swedish) Spotify in their headphones and listen to music with a Swedish origin. Such as Zara Larsson, Avicii or Rebecca & Fiona. Or Pink, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga with hits created by Swedish songwriters and producers. Only John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for example, have had more number ones in the US Billboard charts than Max Martin.

Although it’s not really correct to call it “a miracle”. It’s not happened by chance. It’s the fruit of hard work and hours of practice on guitars, synthesisers and pianos. Rehearsals and more rehearsals.

This is what it’s like in the big, varied sector known as the music industry, ranging from experimental art music to catchy pop music. It’s the great masses of musical enthusiasts who make up the breeding grounds for the few that make the breakthrough and become stars.

“You need a lot of grass roots to develop an elite,” points out Elisabet Widlund, Chair of the Board at Musiksverige.

“Don’t forget we have colleges of music and study associations too. And a good infrastructure with plenty of rehearsal rooms, studios and the various companies in the music industry that support those who create music,” she adds.

What many people in the music industry have in common is that they are individualists and one-person enterprises. But there are also many working together in various kinds of clusters.

Here too, digitalisation has played a major role in developments. It’s not unusual nowadays for 3­–4 people to write a song together without even meeting each other. Collaboration takes place digitally. When they do meet up, it’s ideally in Los Angeles, the main hub of the music industry. But there are also a few studios in Sweden that are attracting talent from both Sweden and abroad.

Internationalisation is important. Not least the narrower musical genres that soon look beyond Sweden to reach a bigger audience, explains Elisabet Widlund.

For most kinds of music there’s an international market, which offers more opportunities for musicians, composers and producers. Regardless of whether you manage to achieve star status in a hit list, or work in the slightly less glamorous area of commissioned music. Because here too there is a major market for Swedish music created for films, TV and advertising. Within and outside the country.

Text: Carin Fredlund, 2018-06-14