Record companies tell MBW: Nope, the industry isn’t losing paying subscribers in Sweden

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Some of the world’s biggest record companies have expressed bemusement over the results of a survey in the Nordics which suggest that paying subscribers to music services in Sweden are in decline.

Last week, MBW reported on a YouGov survey conducted with Scandinavian collection societies during May 2024, in which 4,000 individuals were quizzed across the Nordics.

Those interviews suggested a downturn in the number of people paying for music streaming in Sweden.

Of the YouGov poll’s respondents based in Sweden, 56% said they were Premium subscribers to a music subscription service, down from 59% in mid-2022.

Meanwhile, the same 2024 survey also suggested that Swedes were growing more economically sensitive to the rising price tags of music streaming subscriptions.

Yet these results, according to leading companies in the global recorded music business, should be seen as a survey-specific aberration rather than an indicator of a wider trend.

MBW has seen internal data from global recorded music companies (informed by data supplied by their streaming partners) which shows that the total number of paying account holders of audio music streaming subscriptions in Sweden as of May this year was approximately 2.87 million.

At the end of 2022 (December), this figure – which reflects subscribers across Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Deezer and SoundCloud – stood at around 2.80 million. (These numbers do not include free trialists.)

“We’re not seeing explosive growth in Sweden these days, but we are seeing stability.”

Record company executive

As one record company executive told MBW while presenting this data: “No, we’re not seeing explosive growth in Sweden these days, but we are seeing stability. Despite price rises, the overall trend in the past two years is slightly upward.”

Another record company exec said simply: “The YouGov data doesn’t vibe with our own.”

Other internal record company data we’ve seen reflects the total number of paid-for streaming accounts in Sweden — i.e. it includes users of Family Plans etc., who don’t pay the bill for their subscription but use the services.

Again, this data has been obtained by our sources directly from streaming providers in the market.

It shows that there were 5.06 million total users of paid-for accounts in Sweden as of May 2024; that was up from 4.52 million in June 2022.

The record company execs we spoke to declined to comment on the record because, as mentioned, this streaming data from Sweden has been supplied to them – under condition of confidentiality – by digital partners.

Our sources’ figures do seem to tally, however, with other available evidence.

MBW contacted industry-standard market monitor Luminate today (July 2) for their reaction to the YouGov survey.

Luminate doesn’t publicly disclose subscriber numbers for services, but it does closely follow total streams of both paid-for and ad-supported accounts in multiple markets globally.

Rob Jonas
Photo Credit: Maarten de Boer

“When looking at the first half of 2024, our data shows that premium on-demand streams in Sweden, meaning those that came from paid subscriptions, grew in volume by more than 700 million when compared to the first of half of 2023, or by +4.3% [YoY].”

Rob Jonas, Luminate

Rob Jonas, CEO of Luminate, revealed: “When looking at the first half of 2024, our data shows that premium on-demand streams in Sweden, meaning those that came from paid subscriptions, grew in volume by more than 700 million when compared to the first of half of 2023, or by +4.3% [YoY].”

Jonas added: “On average, premium streams made up 86% of on-demand streaming activity in Sweden during the first half of 2024, with ad-supported activity representing the remaining 14%.

“That [premium vs. ad-supported] share breakdown remains consistent with 2023 data.”

What else has MBW learned from the confidential service-level data we’ve seen from Sweden these past couple of days?

Spotify has by far the most subscribers of any service in Sweden, with a market share of approximately 88%.

And here’s a big one: Our sources agree that Sweden is a global industry market-leader when it comes to the cancellation rates – or ‘churn’ rates – of paying music streaming subscribers.

According to the data we’ve seen, Spotify’s Premium churn rate in Sweden sits at around 1.0% of all subscribers. That compares, for example, to approximately 2.0% in the United States.

(There was a fractional jump in this churn rate in both countries after Spotify increased its prices in both Sweden and the US last year, but this has since settled back to ~1.0% in Sweden and ~2.0% in the US, according to our sources.)

So, with all of that in mind, how come YouGov’s data appeared to show a clear decline in respondents who use a paid-for music service in Sweden in 2024 vs. 2022?

As we pointed out in our initial write-up, that could be a case of sample size: Remember, the YouGov survey was of 4,000 people across the Nordics, with only a portion of these in Sweden – a country of over 10 million people.

There might be another explanation, too.

The YouGov survey specifically gathered data from music streaming users in Sweden who were ‘Premium subscribers [or] bundlers’.

One record company insider suggested that, over the past 12-18 months, Spotify has actively cracked down on account sharing on its Family plan, in cases where non-related people who are not living in the same address share accounts.

Within YouGov’s sample size, this may have resulted in a small decline in Premium account users in Sweden.

The wider market evidence, though, points to a more positive trend: as MBW wrote the other day, IFPI data shows that Sweden’s industry-wide recorded music subscription streaming revenues actually increased by over 6% year over year in 2023.

(Sweden was the world’s 16th largest recorded music market by revenue last year, according to IFPI.)

In 2021, two years before it did the same in the US, Spotify raised its monthly individual Premium price in Sweden by 10%, up from 99 SEK (around USD $9.99) to 109 SEK (around $10.99).

Another price rise in Sweden arrived last year.

Today, Swedish customers who take up an individual Premium subscription are offered a month’s free trial to ad-free Spotify. After this, they must pay 119 SEK (around USD $11.21) per month.Music Business Worldwide