How did Sweden become one of the world’s biggest music exporters?

A new report by Export Music Sweden finds that Sweden is one of only three countries in the world that are net exporters of music, meaning that they import less music than they export.

How did Sweden become one of the world's biggest music exporters?
Swedish song writers and producers play a large role in Sweden's music export success. Photo: Per Larsson/TT

The report aimed to establish whether the commonly quoted statistic that Sweden is the world’s third biggest net exporter of music was correct, and found that it was. In 2010, it was estimated that Swedish pop music exports totalled more than $820 million.

Export Music Sweden’s report measures a country’s exports by finding the ratio between imported music against exported music. Only three countries – the US, the UK and Sweden – have positive ratios. While the US is the world’s leading music exporter, earning 4.5 dollars for every dollar they pay to import music, Sweden is second with an export ratio of 2.7. The UK is behind Sweden with a ratio of 2.2. 

It is worth noting that this ratio is also affected by how little a country imports music from abroad, so the Swedish high score will also be affected by a national preference for Swedish music.

The ratios are calculated through the revenues of the collecting societies. When a Swedish song is played overseas, the overseas collecting society sends money back to STIM (an organisation representing Swedish songwriters) in Sweden and vice versa. The ratios are therefore calculated on the money collecting societies sent/received in a given year, and found that STIM is a net exporter. 

Why does Sweden export so much music?

There are many things that help explain Sweden’s large role in the music industry despite its small population. Lately, the growing importance of Swedish streaming platform Spotify has also helped promote Swedish music abroad.

Another explanation for the phenomenon is the strong music interest in Sweden, with the highest number of choirs per capita in the world – 15 percent of Swedes sing in choirs.

The enduring popularity of some Swedish artists such as Abba, Roxette and Avicii also plays a big part in the Swedish music exports.

The report also analysed Spotify exports by region, finding that Swedish music is mostly played in North America (making up 27 percent of Swedish music exports on Spotify) and South America (13 percent) while only 10 percent of Spotify exports were in the other Nordics. 

What makes a song Swedish? With an increasingly global music industry, much of Sweden’s music exports are deemed Swedish as they are written by Swedish songwriters or produced by Swedish producers. The Canadian Government uses a system where at least two out of the four parameters MAPL (music, artist, production, lyrics) must be led by someone of that nationality, which Export Music Sweden suggests using.

Why does it matter?

The report by Export Music Sweden suggests that the Swedish government should invest in reaching an even greater audience as the Swedish industry is approaching market saturation, where almost all available customers of Spotify in Sweden already use the service.

Further growing music exports are the way to do this, bringing Swedish music to new users abroad.

“With 3.5 billion smartphones in circulation the global recorded music market won’t slow down anytime soon,” the report notes, with its authors urging the government to support Swedish music exports.

“Export Music Sweden and the music industry in Sweden has a noticeably modest support for export endeavours compared to e.g. Norway, where the state offers ten times as much,” Jesper Thorsson, CEO at Export Music Sweden, told The Local.

Member comments

  1. It seems to me there is a lot of protection though. Just as an example, it sounds strange that for a country so passionate about Eurovision, the winning song has never been played on the radio throughout the summer. Of course they did not expect an Italian band would win, and it is clear they pretend this never happened. Instead I had to listen to that mediocre Melodie Festivalen winner. Let us be clear: not that I am quite interested in this dispute, but this closure attitude is more general and it is really something I always dislike in a country, the idea of being always the best, even when you are not, because around some other had a better idea. Maybe I should get used to it and focus on other aspects ….

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IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”