The Swedish Independent Music Business Alternative, or SIMBA as it is known, whose newsletter is published widely in Sweden and beyond with close to 10,000 readers, has printed an article in its latest edition which points to the difficulty independent music artists have in getting their music played, particularly on the national radio channel P4. The article also calls into question senior broadcast management’s attitude to independent artists and bands generally.
I have always had a good working relationship with SIMBA, whose newsletter is edited by a leading figure in the Swedish indie scene and I am delighted to have the opportunity to reprint the article here. It will be of interest to independent musicians everywhere and its findings will resonate wherever similar circumstances apply – which means widely throughout Europe and beyond.
If you want to get on the SIMBA mailing list contact [email protected].
To get songs on the important playlist on the national Swedish Radio’s biggest channel; Swedish Radio P4, is for the vast majority of Swedish independent labels something of an unattainable dream. Although the digital music portal where the record companies, hoping to be considered and played on the channel every week, register their current releases is open to everyone, it is considered by many to be “a black hole”.
“If you happen to be signed by an indie label in Sweden, your chances of being heard on the country’s biggest radio station are definitely slim”, says a label manager at a Swedish indie label.
SIMBA has analysed all published playlists for the national Swedish Radio’s biggest channel – Sveriges Radio P4 – during 2020 and 2021. The figures show that the Swedish independent record labels’ share of the songs that were put on rotation this year was only 21 percent – and compared with the previous year, the share fell by as much as a quarter.
In recent years, more and more established and other Swedish artists and bands have chosen to work with independent record companies. This includes world stars such as Zara Larsson, Icona Pop, Mando Diao, and Per Gessle (of Roxette fame), as well as the locally recognised Swedish artists Benjamin Ingrosso, Lars Winnerbäck, Smith & Tell, Darin, Uno Svenningsson, Lena Philipsson, and Tomas Andersson Wij. But despite the fact that TEN Music Group, one of Sweden’s both internationally and locally most successful record companies, is also an independent company, the independent sector as a whole is still losing ground to the major companies Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music in the radio landscape.
During the past year, all the Swedish indie companies together have only achieved 68 of the total of 291 songs that P4 have put on rotation – which is only almost half as many as the three major companies had the same year.
At a meeting between Sveriges Radio’s music editors and the members of the Swedish independent companies’ organisation SOM a few years ago, Sveriges Radio’s former Head of Music answered the criticism with a counter-question: “So we should have to sit and check which record companies the music comes from?”
What the distributional distortion seems to be mainly due to, however, is not about that, but more about, among other things, the larger companies’ advantage in the form of their financial muscle that make it possible to invest significantly more in active sales and radio promotion, which most indie companies cannot afford and therefore does not get the same opportunities for a fair assessment in the music editors’ selection process.
“In principle, this leads to the purely musically based selection process being put out of play, which explains why the conditions for indies and majors in recent years have more and more been cemented in a kind of David vs. Goliath-like situation,” states a frustrated indie label representative. “I fear that the playlist jury is not aware that the music is not judged on equal terms at all, and I would like the national Swedish Radio’s music editors to make more of their choices by actually judging the quality and potential of the songs.”
In the independent sector as well as in other parts of the music industry, most believe that Sweden’s state-funded radio should actually have a responsibility better to reflect the music life in the country and not compete with the commercial radio stations.
“We are keen to provide as broad, versatile and nuanced a picture as possible”, writes Swedish Radio on its website about its journalistic mission. But when it comes to the choice of music in the biggest channel P4, both the breadth and versatility are now increasingly being questioned.
STATISTICS Sveriges Radio P4 playlists 2020-2021
Total number of added songs: 277
Swedish releases: 171
Independent label’s share of the Swedish releases: 43%
Major label’s share of Swedish releases (Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music): 57%
Total number of added songs: 291
Swedish releases: 168
Independent label’s share of the Swedish releases: 36%
Major label’s share of Swedish releases (Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music): 64%.
End of article.
Thanks also to the Editor for mentioning Nordic Music Central in this edition! If you read the article about NMC this is just to update the stats. Since it was written we’ve gone from readers in 25 countries to 72, now including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The interest in Nordic music knows no bounds.