Sweden's Unique Music Story Continues: Subscriptions Up Big, CDs Flat in First Half of 2012
Sweden's Unique Music Story Continues: Subscriptions Up Big, CDs Flat in First Half of 2012

Music revenues are quite healthy in the land where streaming rules. Figures released this week by the Swedish Recording Industry Association say recorded music revenues grew 30% in the first half of 2012, according to a report at the Swedeish English-language news site The Local.

Subscription revenues from Spotify and similar services represented the majority of the gains, jumping 79% to $36 million. Sweden has a number of streaming services, including Spotify, WiMP and US-based Rdio launched in Sweden earlier this month and is n ot represented in these first-half numbers.

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Remarkably, the strong showing by subscription services coincided with a rebound in the physical market. CD sales were down just 1% to 4.4 million units after declining 54% in 2011.

Sweden is a unique market with few parallels to the U.S. and other Western markets. Its download market never really took off in Sweden in spite of the country's strong per capita income, relatively high broadband penetration and obvious affinity of music. The country has a reputation for piracy - it is the home of the Pirate Bay website - and a history of strong anti-piracy enforcement. A study released in late 2011 said 21% of Swedes engage in file sharing.

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But there is a lesson in Sweden's digital successes: subscription services have flourished in Sweden in spite of the continued presence of piracy. Digital sales accounted for 51% of total recorded music sales in Sweden last year, according to IFPI Sweden. Streaming services accounted for 82% of digital sales in 2011, up from 66% in 2010.