Indie Artist Makes a Killing from Streaming – Yep, You Heard Right.

Jonathan Johansson HybrisIf 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.

Listen to Jonathan Johansson’s Klagomuren on Spotify or find him on iTunes.


Maurice DeNoble

Can you offer more details. Is the $20,000.00 net or gross to the label or artist?
What is the background of this artist in his native country? Is he on Television? Was he already an established celebrity? What portion of this income was earned in his native country vs. the rest of the world. And who are these other artists you are alluding to with similar success. Can you show us an example of an European catalog artist and what his numbers look like?

To sum up, you have given us a lot of hyperbole and not many facts. You don’t really explain the promotion behind this artist. More details please. How about some more success stories that apply to established artists.

Chris Duncan

Hi Maurice, thanks for your comment!

This is after our deductions and it’s to the label. The artist and label are 50/50 according to Hybris.

It’s Jonathan Johansson’s second album. He’s been on high profile TV shows, not a celebrity per-se, but definitely a reputable indie artist. The vast majority of his income was earned in Sweden and Denmark, he doesn’t have much of a profile outside of these countries because he sings in Swedish.

It’s hard for me to comment on other artists, as I had permission from Hybris to write this article, but you’ll see that the noises coming out of Sweden have been overwhelmingly positive regarding revenue generated from streaming services. This article in The Guardian provides a little more insight:

On their roster, they don’t have too many established artists because they’re an indie label focusing on new music, but we’ve seen strong figures with the likes of Lucas Nord and Azure Blue – and these are artists who’ve never released anything prior. This is the most exciting part for me – the money is coming in for new artists, not just established acts.

The promotion of the artist was pretty simple. He received strong radio play and some TV coverage. As Mattias says, it was almost a 90s style campaign because the results came in via traditional media.

We’ll definitely strive to get you some case studies relating to more established acts. Please let me know if you have any other questions!


So at 0.0008 per stream – $20,000 would be 25 million streams in one month. Is that about right?

Chris Duncan

The number of streams is in the low millions. I can’t comment on the rate I’m afraid!

Alex / Redfield

Hi Chris,
nice story! So do you prefer to have it available only for streaming sites when the promotion starts or also for download at the same time?

I believe that Spotify and other streaming sites are working as “new radiostations” besides the established ones are playing a lot of chart-music.


Chris Duncan

Hey Alex,

Thanks! All good in Deutschland? I love the new Face Tomorrow video – awesome that it was mixed by Mark Trombino too, I love the early Jimmy Eat World stuff he produced!

I would recommend having the music available everywhere at the same time, try not to separate between streaming and a la carte.

iTunes placements are still very important in most key markets, so I would definitely encourage you (in Germany) to allow good lead-time ahead of the album street date while a la carte remains the biggest slice of the pie.

For singles, though, I would say release them as soon as they are sent to traditional radio.

Hope that helps!


Assuming a rather generous payment rate of half-a-cent per play, a payment of $20,000 per month would require 4 million plays per month. Since this guy is little known outside Sweden, he must be very popular there to get that level of play from a population of a few million. If he is that popular, he ought to be able to sell records, which would bring a much bigger income. And excuse me for being skeptical, but I looked him up on YouTube, which shows publicly how many people have played a track, and none of his songs have got anything like 1 million plays in total, over a period of more than a year. So why are all these Swedes not looking him up on YouTube?


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