Editorial: Is there something in the water? The secrets to Sweden’s musical success
We seem to be infiltrated with Swedish music as of late – just as SHM’s reign is coming to an end, Prydz has moved to the US to fill the Swedish void. You’ve read it as many times as I’ve written it: another Swedish sensation graces the dance music world with yet another groundbreaking production. Not to mention, the countless number of influential producers from Avicii and Dada Life to Dahlback and Alesso, etc. In fact, Sweden is the third largest exporter of music in the world behind the US and UK. It’s perplexing how such a tiny country – a population total of only one million more than New York City – can churn out so many success stories. What is Sweden’s secret to musical success?
I’ve been living in Stockholm for seven months now, which has allowed me to begin to understand the culture surrounding music. Below are my observations which have been Swede-proofed for validity.
It’s Dark – Stockholm has an average of 34 hours of sunlight in December, compare that to 219 in LA. During the darkest days of the winter, the sun goes down around 2:45pm. This means you can sense the sky getting dark around 2:15pm. While this may seem depressing (and it is), it does increase productivity tenfold. There isn’t much for aspiring producers to do during those long, cold, dark nights than sit in a cozy studio and perfect their sound.
Lunch Time Raves – In Stockholm, no matter what day of the week it is, there are upcoming DJs playing in venues ranging from swanky hotel lounges to run-of-the-mill pizza parlors and outdoor terrassens. Notice I said day not night. A popular phenomenon introduced a few years ago are lunchtime raves — also known as, heaven on earth. The Swedes leave their sad little cubes at noon in order to go dance like crazy in the midst of their sweaty, sober co-workers. The daytime clubs are fixed with strobe lights, smoke machines, pounding house music and of course, a lunch buffet. This practice gained so much attention that in 2011, “lunch disco” was officially recognized as a new word by the Swedish Language Council. So while the Spaniards are taking their siestas, the Swedes are raving.
Lagom – The Swedes are commonly working towards a goal of “lagom” which is defined as “in moderate balance,” or “not too much or too little.” Swedes pride themselves on equality – it is considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes. High income tax and good social benefits are provided to minimize class differences and provide a state of lagom for all. Musicians are able to achieve their fullest potential since all basic needs such as education and health care are provided for. Sweden has one of the highest levels of education since university is free (read: paid by taxes), which makes music engineering and tech classes readily available for all curious music producers. The country’s Socialist leanings have all but removed most of the financial barriers to entry that an aspiring producer in the States would face – starving artists can invest in synthesizers instead of insurance.
Technology-driven – Sweden is third, behind only Israel and Finland, when it comes to research and development spending as a percentage of GDP. In other words, they spend a ton of money on innovation. This has garnered support for startups like the music-streaming platform Spotify, internet phone-service Skype, and our lifeline Soundcloud. It is also one of the most digitally connected countries with the highest broadband coverage in the world. Sharing music and ideas is inevitable. It’s obvious musicians introduce this inventive mindset into their work — forever developing genre-defying sounds by harnessing the best in technology.
Musical Influence – The Swedes have a folk song for every occasion, whether it be midsummer celebration, a dinner toast, or a festive holiday. The melodic tunes are embedded in everyday life, so much so that Sweden has the highest number of choirs per capita in the world. Music is supported through funds for music classes, municipal music schools and music study circles. They also have great role-models such as ABBA and Robyn, not to mention famed pop songwriters such as Max Martin responsible for legendary hits like “Quit Playing Games (With my Heart)” and “…Baby One More Time.” Sweden has a tiny music market compared to the US. Here, everyone knows everyone so it’s easier to make connections and forge relationships with key players in the industry.
Whether the formula for success is embedded in the reasons above or shaped on an individual basis, it’s hard to say. Regardless, I believe Swedish people are an incredibly hard working, talented and beautiful bunch. Above all, they dominate the dance music landscape because of a deep, unmatched passion for music – a passion that will allow them to innovate and triumph for years to come. Skål!