This is a guest post written by our dear friend and Swedish music industry Superhero Eric Hasselqvist. He is a Managing Director Publishing Company TEN, and was awarded MVP of the year at Denniz Pop Awards 2013. This is Eric’s take on ‘When and why the hits started to come from Sweden’ and a very vivid trip right back to the 90’s.
(Marit Woody and Eric Hasselqvist- welcoming speach at the Denniz Pop Awards 2015).
When and why the hits started to come from Sweden
If you consider the small population of Sweden, it´s definitely the most successful pop music country in the world. So did it all start with Abba in the 70´s or perhaps with Roxette in the 80´s? Well, they were massive acts, but the Swedish music export didn´t find it´s organized form until the early 90´s.
Swedes are in general good at exporting things, basically because the home market is really small so you need to go abroad to reach volume. Music is no exception. But what happened in the 90´s that kicked off the Swedish hit industry that has been going on ever since?
In my opinion, there were three key factors, or actually three companies, that started to happen at the same time. Cheiron had major international success with various local and international artists with songs written and produced by Denniz Pop, Max Martin and the other members of the team.
Stockholm Records was the first record label set-up for, and focused on, breaking Swedish artists internationally. That worked well with Army Of Lovers, The Cardigans, A Teens and E-Type, who was by the way produced by Denniz Pop & Max Martin.
E-Type is good example of the open climate at that time. Recording at Cheiron for the Stockholm Records label, he was also a TV-host at ZTV, the third company I´d like to mention. ZTV was a pop video channel, a local MTV if you like. It gave every Swedish video and video director a chance, including future world director names like Jonas Åkerlund and Johan Renck, and it meant that it was always worthwhile to invest in a video.
(E-type at the Denniz Pop Awards 2016).
The entry barriers were really low, anyone could walk into the ZTV office, and suddenly they were in front of the camera if they had an interesting look. At Stockholm Records we had no reception desk, and anyone could show up and play a song. If it was OK, they would immediately get signed. Sometimes several artists on the same day. A few weeks later the track would be released and the video, probably by some new Swedish director, would be on ZTV.
Doors were open everywhere and it was really easy to get in touch with anyone. I remember one day when I was at the Cheiron studio and Max Martin played a new song called ”Baby One More Time”, asking me if I thought it would be a hit while showing some photos of a young Britney. I then walked over to ZTV and ended up with my friends there in the control room, where they were smoking quite a lot of weed while trying to keep the programs running without interruptions and black screens. It worked reasonably well… When I came back to the office a really drunk, guy was waiting behind my desk, ready to play a demo. It was actually quite good as I recall it.
Everyone knew each other and hung out with each other. And anyone from the street could get a chance. And when the hits started to come there was this general feeling that the sky was the limit, anyone could do it. If someone had a hit in the UK, USA or Germany, no-one was surprised. No big deal, someone else would have a hit next week.
That was then but this is now. It´s very much the same thing today. Very similar actually. The only difference is that it´s more organized and there are several more labels, publishers, producers, writers and artists that are successful. But there is still no red tape in Sweden, it´s really easy to access anyone. Today, anyone walking in from the street can get signed straight away. And be on the chart a month later. It´s also easy to work in Sweden. Swedes are easy-going and like to co-operate, which is really crucial today. And you don´t need that many lawyers here…..
So, if it all started in the 90´s who was the no 1 key person among all? Well, it was probably Denniz Pop, being a sort of enthusiastic father figure for everyone. And that´s of course why we have the Denniz Pop Awards, and why it makes sense and really means something.