The major labels are starting to find life tougher in Sweden. Is this a wake-up call for the future?

Sweden has long been a harbinger of trends which affect the global music business – whether it’s the advent of torrent-based downloads via The Pirate Bay, or the birth of mainstream audio streaming via Spotify.

The latest data coming out of the market should certainly be monitored very closely by major labels because, if it starts to bite on a global scale, it’s going to cause some headaches.

Driven by the popularity of local hip-hop, the market share of independently-distributed artists on Spotify’s Top 50 daily chart in Sweden hit an all-time high earlier this month, rising to 44% (i.e. 22 tracks out of 50) on September 5.

That’s according to independent distribution and services company Amuse, which is based in Stockholm but operates globally.

In fact, Amuse’s analysis, provided to MBW this week, suggests that an average of 38% of Spotify’s daily Top 50 chart in Sweden so far this month has been claimed by indie artist tracks.

Although this figure has been dragged up by some big-league recent independent album releases (from artists like Einár, Dree Low and Ant Wan), it’s not likely to delight those running the globe’s biggest record companies.

Diego Farias, co-founder and CEO of Amuse, told MBW: “While the DIY artist market is exploding, major labels still dominate the charts to a high degree. However, the share of independent music distribution on Sweden’s Spotify Top 50 list has risen as high as 38% in September.

“This growth is driven by self-releasing artists, the majority of them Amuse users such as Dree Low (pictured); many [of these acts are] within the hip-hop genre, which has been highly visible on the list over the past year and a half.

“The Swedish Top 50 is less and less dominated by international hits and pop, and more so from independent young artists connecting with their fans over social media and local communities.”

“Sweden has long been a pioneer in the global music market. We think this is an interesting local trend to watch.”

Diego Farias, Amuse

He added: “Sweden has long been a pioneer in the global music market. We think this is an interesting local trend to watch as we’re seeing independent music finally start to crossover to have a significant share on the charts as well.

“This past week, Amuse had seven platform tracks on Sweden’s Spotify Top 50 list, whereas one of them was No.1 [Dree Low’s PIPPI]. Amuse had 15 tracks on the Spotify Top 100 which equals 15% market share on the list.”

According to Spotify’s official daily chart in Sweden, Dree Low’s PIPPI returned to the No.1 spot yesterday (September 29), dethroning the Elektra/Warner-released Dance Monkey by Tones & I.

Meanwhile, in the past month, all five of the most popular major-label owned playlists on Spotify in Sweden have lost followers.

According to ChartMetric data analyzed by MBW (see above), Sweden’s No.1 Spotify playlist in popularity terms, Dancefloor Hits by Filtr – a Sony Music company – has seen its follower count fall by 1,661 in the past 28 days, down to 920,264.

Other major label-owned Playlists in Spotify Sweden’s Top 30 that have lost followers in the past month: Digster Hits at No.10 (-403 followers); Digster Fresh at No.19 (-126); Filtr’s Hits Just Nu at No.20 (-127); and Filtr’s Nya Hits at No.28 (-188).

At the same time, Spotify’s own Reading Soundtrack, at No.2, has surged, up by 10,628 followers; it currently boasts a total of 715,753.

Reading Soundtrack is stuffed with music from acts that fit the bill of so-called ‘Fake Artists’ – i.e. self-releasing artists who have little to no other presence on the internet bar their Spotify catalogs.

Just six of the 104 tracks currently on Reading Soundtrack, or 5.8%, appear to come from major and major-distributed labels, including Sony Classics and Disney Music Group.

Another playlist that matches this description is Floating Through Space, the No.11-most-followed playlist on Spotify in Sweden, which contains zero major label tracks amongst its list of 84 recordings.

Interestingly, these two playlists perform especially well when Spotify’s playlists in Sweden are ranked in terms of Average Monthly Listeners (AML), as opposed to followers (which some argue is a misleading metric).

The No.1 most popular playlist in Sweden in terms of AML (see above) is Hits Idag (Today’s Hits) with 66,789 AML, followed by Reading Soundtrack on 62,449.

Lugnt & Skönt (Quiet & Nice), a personalized playlist, sits at No.3, with a tracklist containing over 50% non-major label content, according to ChartMetric data. Floating Through Space comes in at No.6 most popular in terms of AML.

Sweden’s key local hip-hop playlist, 100, contains just 12 major label tracks amongst its 70-strong list, according to MBW analysis of ChartMetric data – equivalent to 82.9% independent music.

None of this has gone unnoticed by senior major label figures speaking to MBW in the past week, one of whom accused Spotify of “actively channelling” its users away from major record company content in Sweden.

Spotify declined to comment when contacted by MBW.

According to IFPI data, Sweden was the world’s 14th biggest recorded music market in 2018, generating $201.5m for labels and artists – up 2.8% year-on-year.Music Business Worldwide

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