If you’re from outside of Scandinavia, you probably have no idea who Jonathan Johansson is. Let me fill you in. He’s a very hip Swedish artist who has been steadily building a healthy fanbase in the Nordics with the aid of his label, Hybris.
It was recently reported in Denmark’s Børsen newspaper (equivalent to the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal) that Jonathan Johansson made more than $20,000 from streaming services alone in the first month of his album being available. This includes services such as Spotify and TDC Play. Even more interesting is the fact that this represents approximately 83% of his total income from digital services, including downloads, in Sweden. Not bad for an indie-pop artist singing in his native language.
Assuming fans keep listening to his music, this income should remain at a similar level beyond the release date, because unlike à la carte downloads or physical product, each play is monetised.
His label, Hybris, took the novel approach several years ago of lobbying their government, creating The Swedish Model along with 5 other independent labels pushing for increased licensing of their music to streaming services – even before the advent of Spotify. Using innovative ideas, offering 50/50 deals with their artists – and most importantly their ear for a potential hit – they’re widely regarded as one of the coolest labels in Europe right now.
Jonathan’s success on streaming sites, which has been replicated by other artists of similar calibre in these countries, raises interesting questions for music marketing professionals. Rather than setting a release date after the bulk of promotion, it often makes more sense for Hybris to get albums out as soon as they kick-off their promo run. They want listeners, not buyers.
Hybris’ Mattias Lövkvist is convinced that this is one of the reasons why Jonathan Johansson’s album became such a success. “With Spotify,” he says, “you can see a very strong connection between an album that’s been getting a good welcome by the media and the streams. Going from reading the daily magazine reviews and clicking on your computer once to hear the music is a very easy process. [...] In a way we see a situation returning to how things were in the 90s, with media (traditional as well as new media) playing a bigger role and where sales charts better reflects what people listen to.”
The market has become the pin-up of the access model and Lövkvist claims “If you are on the top list of the 100 most played at Spotify you are a star. Since they have such a massive number of users in Sweden, it’s the first service since the arrival of the CD that has made itself culturally relevant.”
The jury is still out on streaming for many, as critical mass has yet to be achieved in most of the major music markets, but it’s extremely interesting to see these revolutionary changes happening beyond the traditional heartlands of the music industry.