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Swedish Songwriters and Publishers Bounced Back After a Tough 2020 — Here’s Why

STIM, which collects royalties for publishers and songwriters in Sweden, posted its second highest revenue tally ever in 2021.

STIM, the Swedish collection society for publishers and songwriters, reported total royalty receipts at 2.153 billion SEK ($250.8 million), or a 12.4% increase over the prior year’s total of 1.907 billion SEK ($203.3 million). And when other income is added, total revenue came in at 2.161 billion SEK ($251.8 million) in 2021, or a 12.8% increase over the prior year’s total of 1.9165 billion SEK ($204.3 million).

“Despite the major impact of the pandemic on the music industry, it is the organization’s second highest [revenue] figure ever,” STIM said in a statement, adding that streaming is fueling the growth.

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Meanwhile, distributions to members were almost 1.842 billion SEK ($214 million), or a 10.1% increase over the prior year’s collections of 1.673 billion (SEK $178.3 million).

STIM CEO Casper Bjørner notes that while Sweden didn’t have lockdowns to the level of most other countries, the pandemic did impact the concert business, especially in bigger venues, to a large degree there. And while that business and some other licensing areas like general background music and radio are still seeing declines, the biggest hit to licensing for STIM was in 2020, not last year, he says.

Breaking out receipts by territory, the collection management society said its direct licensing efforts brought in 1.433 billion SEK ($167 million), while other territories’ licensing societies generated another 721.72 million SEK ($84 million) for Sweden’s songwriters and publishers. Meanwhile, the organization said its adjusted operating expenses came to 9.6% of revenue, an improvement from the prior year when the administrative cost expense was10.2% of revenue.

According to a report authored by Will Page, author of Tarzan Economics, and music industry executive David Safir, Sweden is one of only three countries that are net exporters of music; the other two are the U.S. and the U.K.

“This is a remarkable sign of strength for Swedish composers, songwriters and publishers,” Bjørner said in a statement. “STIM’s income from 2021 underlines the cultural impact that Swedish music has abroad. For many years, our members’ music has had an enormously strong impact all over the world on services such as Spotify, Netflix, YouTube and HBO. Sweden songwriters include ABBA, Roxette, Shellback, and Max Martin, with the latter being among 2021’s most successful songwriters, which also include Tove Lo, Ali Payami, Robin Fredriksson, and Ilya Salmanzadeh.”

Breaking out royalty receipts by licensing vehicles, the ongoing pandemic had its biggest impact, as expected, on concerts as live public performance royalties overall declined to 98.5 million SEK ($11.5 million), a nearly 43% decline from the 172.6 million SEK ($18.4 million) accumulated in 2020. Within that, STIM’s licensing for the live market was stronger in that its receipts only declined 3.8% to 37.35 million SEK ($4.35 million), from 2020s total of 39.3 million SEK ($4.2 million).

“The music industry will have to live with the effects of the pandemic for a long time, and many of our members are still in need of support,” Bjørner said in a statement. “However, it’s very gratifying to see sold-out arena gigs again – both the live and background music markets are bouncing back strongly.”

Moving on and looking at receipts by size, new media (interactive streaming) generated the largest chunk, coming in at 1.008 billion SEK ($117.4 million), a whopping 51.5% increase over the prior year when interactive and non-interactive activity generated 666.7 million SEK ($71.07 million).

STIM, along with PRS for Music (U.K. collection society) and GEMA (Germany collection society), are joint owners in ICE, which handles all of their global digital licensing. In 2021, it managed 27 trillion digital transactions.

TV licensing provided receipts of 465.3 million SEK ($54.2 million), or a 1.8% increase over the prior year’s total of 457.2 million SEK ($48.74 million); and within that STIM’s direct licensing at 265.2 million SEK ($30.9 million) was slightly down from the prior year’s 273.1 million SEK ($29.1 million), while foreign societies’ TV licensing grew 8.7% to 200.01 million SEK ($23.3 million), from 184.7 million SEK ($19.6 million) in 2020.

Radio licensing, meanwhile, declined to 273.4 million SEK ($31.85 million), a 5.6% drop from 2020s total of 289.5 million SEK ($30.9 million); and practically all of the decline was from the foreign society’s licensing efforts.

Beyond media, in the brick-and-mortar world, general background music licensing at bars, retail, clubs, hotels, etc., tallied 228.3 million SEK ($26.6 million), an 8.3% decline from the prior year’s total of 248.94 million SEK ($26.5 million).

Finally, physical mechanical brought in 81.1 million SEK ($9.44 million), a 12.2% increase over the prior year’s total of 72.3 million SEK ($7.7 million)—the bulk of that was garnered by STIM as other societies only generated 1.4 million SEK ($162,000).

Looking at licensing by media for global receipts:

  • new media totaled 46.8% of receipts in 2020 versus 35% in 2020;
  • TV licensing comprised 21.6%, down from 24% of receipts in the prior year;
  • radio fell to 12.7% of receipts in 2021 from 15.2% in 2020;
  • general (background) licensing receipts accounted for 10.6%, down from 13.1%;
  • concerts and live performances tallied 4.6% of receipts, versus 9% in the prior year;
  • and mechanicals from physical held steady at 3.8% of receipts, despite its revenue increase.

In another development, STIM said its membership grew to nearly 99,000 members from a little over 95,000 in 2020. The CMO numbers 2 million songs in its catalog, with 100,000 new songs being added each year.

During 2021, STIM launched Cora Music which allows YouTube channels to license music for use in their programming. And the CMO rebranded its STIM Forward Fund, which invests in songwriters that STIM and its partner organizations — FST, the Swedish Society of Composers; SKAP, the Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors; and Musikförläggarna, music publishers— think they can make a difference in helping songwriters grow and find opportunities. For instance, one area the Forward Fund invests in is gender equality to hopefully make a difference to young and upcoming women writers, Bjørner tells Billboard.

Finally, STIM partnered with the Australian society APRA to license the STIM repertoire directly in Asia — which ICE doesn’t cover — because the country’s music is very popular in some of those countries, the organization said in a statement.

Note: This story uses an exchange rate of one SEK to $0.1165 (11.65 cents) for 2021 and $0.1066 (10.66 cents) for 2020.