Ever since ABBA gained global fame with the Eurovision winner Waterloo in 1974, Sweden’s been pumping out pop stars, electro prodigies, acclaimed songwriters and producers, plus that little streaming service called Spotify.
Here's just some of the reasons why every tune this tiny Scandinavian country seems to touch turns to gold...or platinum.
1. Small and mighty
With a population of just 9.6 million, Sweden is the world’s #1 exporter of chart music in relation to GDP. Between 2001 to 2007, guess how many chart entries came from Sweden? 52,100!
2. Where does this musical awesomeness come from?
In a sentence, Sweden values music and the artists behind it.
The Swedish Arts Council spends around EUR 116 million on performing arts grants every year. Swedes call this ‘socialbidraget som ligger bakom det svenska musikundret’ (‘the social welfare behind the Swedish music miracle’).
Songwriters, producers and musicians are given the support needed to learn their craft because, let’s be honest, holding down a desk job and creating #1 hits is a serious ask.
3. A musical education
Before Swedish song-makers are awarded such grants, many attend municipal music schools known as kommunala musikskolan. These were super popular during the 70s and 80s, inspired by what we call “The ABBA Effect” – more on that in minute. Swedish kids have their choice of instruments, so they can play around with drums one day, flute the next, then wind up on the keys.
Choirs are another a big thing in Sweden. The choral tradition harks back to folk songs of yore, which are often sung around Midsummer and Christmas. Today, Sweden is home to 500 choirs (the highest number per capita in the world), and boasts a grand 600,000 members, says the Swedish choir union Sveriges Körförbund.
4. The ABBA Effect
Sure, Sweden had pop stars prior to 1974, but it was ABBA that flung this nation into the halls of musical fame. After winning the Song Contest with their catchy tune Waterloo, ABBA became the best-selling band in the world in the 1970s and influenced a generation of music makers.
5. All bases covered
Swedish music was on an upward trend during the ’80s and ’90s: from Europe’s The Final Countdown *insert keyboard riff* which went to #1 in 25 countries in 1986, to chart-toppers like Ace of Base, The Cardigans and Rednex (remember that weird-as country-pop tune Cotton Eyed Joe?).
In 1990, Roxette won hearts with It Must Have Been Love, featured in Pretty Woman, while At The Gates’ 1995 release of Slaughter of the Soul changed the face of death metal.
5. Hello hit machine
But Swedish acts weren’t the only ones kicking goals. The country’s music producers discovered an algorithm (or maybe just rhythm?) for creating international hits. Swedish producer Max Martin, for instance, has written and produced 17 Billboard #1 hits, working with a swag of celebs including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Pink, Usher, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. Meanwhile, the eponymous “RedOne” has written for the likes of Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Pitbull, and One Direction.
6. Video skills and radio stars
And another thing, Swedes are also rocking it in the music video department. Grammy-winning director Jonas Åkerlund is one of the biggest names in the business, having worked with a terribly diverse list of clients: Ramstein and Roxette, Britney Spears and Beyonce, Moby, Madonna and even The Rolling Stones.
7. Thinking like a Boss
What’s the use in being a chart-topper if you’re just a puppet for music industry executives? Many Swedish artists reject this traditional model by taking full control of their creative process, i.e. songwriting, owning their own label and self-marketing.
Pop-rocker Robyn is a poster child for this approach, having founded Konichiwa Records in 2005 to guarantee ownership over her career.
INGRID, an artist collective and record label, is another example of musicians doin’ it for themselves. It was founded in 2012 by 13 Scandinavian and American artists, including Lykke Li and Peter, Bjorn & John.
8. Next step, global domination
Those clever, clever Swedes. Not only do they produce pop music, they’re also behind the world’s most popular streaming site Spotify, along with online audio platform SoundCloud and a raft of software and equipment designed for music producers in-the-making.
9. And the Eurovision goes to....
Unlike some culture-cringing Europeans, Swedes love Eurovision. Melodifestivalen – the country’s song contest for choosing their Eurovision entrant – is Sweden’s most watched TV program, raking in roughly 4 million viewers (out of a possible 9.6!). Thanks to Måns Zelmerlöv’s victory last year, Sweden boasts six Eurovision wins, trailing only Ireland, which has won seven times.
While we hope our Aussie champion Dami Im takes home the prize at this year’s competition, we still tip our hats to the host country. Good onya Sweden, may every song you touch turn to platinum, diamond or gold!
Watch Sweden's entry for this year's Eurovision, 'If I Were Sorry' by Frans, below: