The Lukas Graham Effect @ SPOT2016

The SPOT Festival is not only a platform for a wide range of bands and artists, it also has a networking purpose for their managers and producers to connect with one another during a series of events. During one of these events called Music without borders, Spotify and Copenhagen Records introduced the magic of streaming platforms that can build careers beyond national borders.

“Spotify is a platform to make a song travel fast”, says Eva Lægdsgaard Madsen, the Director of Nordic label relations on Spotify. Together with Gaute Parbo Nieman, product manager at Copenhagen Records, she is presenting on the SPOT festival in Aarhus to encourage more Nordic artists to follow the example of Lukas Graham, whose music made it across borders – from the most streamed artist in Denmark to the most streamed artist worldwide in only 9 months.

Music across borders

The Lukas Graham miracle       

It is a miraculous story. In 2011, Lukas Forchhammer and his highschool friends uploaded two videos of their performance of “Criminal Mind” and “Drunk in the morning” on YouTube. Very soon, they got 200 000 views – a lot for Danish proportions – and were approached by Copenhagen Records. This resulted in their debut album Lukas Graham in 2012, which went seven times Platinum in Denmark. This drew the attention of Warner Brothers, leading to another contractual agreement for their follow-up album (also titled Lukas Graham). However, as Warner Brothers kept on postponing the global release of this album, Copenhagen Records decided to just release it in Denmark, without any prior announcement. On Spotify, it went straight to the top and all songs made it into the Top 35 in Denmark.

In September 2015, Lukas Graham’s follow-up album was “tested” on the Nordic market, before releasing it worldwide. At first, little response came from the Nordic radio market, but the label put all efforts in making the band visible and the story of the album known wherever they would go. Three weeks later, Lukas Graham was the first Danish band ever to claim the Number 1 position on Spotify in Sweden. After that, their streaming numbers went up everywhere: UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, up to Number 1 in the US in November 2015.

Around Christmas that the streaming numbers stabilized, due to what the industry calls the “Christmas songs effect”:people rather listen to their old traditional Christmas songs than to current Chart music.  Nevertheless, in January 2016 the numbers started increasing again and are growing until now: the band just reached number one in Malaysia.

Music across borders Gaute Parbo Nieman, product manager at Copenhagen Records

How would this work for other artists?
Madsen explains how Spotify works: “First, we have local editors that create playlists. Their magic is the moment, they know what their listeners want to hear and when – their playlists work like radio channels and you should never interfere with their work. These playlist creators are not interested in building careers for artists but only in their audience.” Therefore, what one needs to do first as an artist is to release the music on Spotify so that these creators would find your music. To gather their attention, make sure that you have a global release day and then be active with the audience: share playlists, talk to your friends etc. Then, you must coordinate your efforts within and outside of Spotify; this means if you promote your work outside Spotify on Google or Facebook, it has to match with your activities on Spotify. In case this is too difficult, one can “buy a campaign” on Spotify that does that for the artist.

Having reached enough people, it is important to use the data about “fan insights” to know how and by whom your music is consumed. Spotify provides a tool to sign up for this. The data enables you to differ between the different types of fans: there are the “lean back” fans which let the music come to themselves through playlists and the “lean in” fans that add your music to their library and search for your music; otherwise titled the “hardcore fans”. This way, the artist also finds out which playlist genre the songs are added to – valuable information for further promotion.

In need of a hit
Of course, not every song and every musician will make it this way. As Madsen and Niemann point out: “Spotify can bring music across borders but you need a hit. Lukas Graham is a hit.” What is next for the now?

Their numbers on Spotify are growing further, they are among the 12 most viewed artists on Spotify world wide now. Furthermore, they released another Album in April 2016 that proofs to be equally successful. Niemann is very happy about this: “Never has been any Danish artist so successful. And this means our story – our success – goes beyond this one album, leaving a huge impact on the Danish music industry. We are very proud.”

Text and pictures by Isabelle Bonenkamp


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