NThe etflix star shouldn’t have been on Per Sundin’s bucket list – and it didn’t quite become one either. After all, an actor embodies the 59-year-old Swede in the current Netflix series about the creation of Spotify. But through “The Playlist” his name is now known to many who are only marginally involved with the music industry or not at all. “My person and perspective are representative of three or four,” says Sundin. Of course, not everything happened as shown, “but I’m happy with the way I was played”.
As one of the brains behind the ABBA show, taking place in a purpose-built arena in London and featuring digital likenesses of the four stars, he also has every reason to be satisfied: “The first regular show was on May 27th, since then every one has been sold out, and we do seven shows a week,” says Sundin, pointing to the proud figure of 730,000 tickets sold as of November 1st. Of course, the venture was anything but cheap. There is talk of $175 million. According to Sundin, they need a total of 3 million tickets to break even, with prices starting at 24 euros.
“I’m not sure Spotify would ever have taken off without Pirate Bay”
The time when the Netflix episode played with him was anything but nice for him. “From 2000 to 2008, sales in the Swedish music industry were halved,” says Sundin, looking back on the heyday of illegal download platforms. “I had to lay off 250 employees in those years, and nobody really cared, we were considered dinosaurs.”
The internet, on the other hand, is free and everything should be free: That was the general mood in Sweden in the early 2000s – the worst-case scenario for him as local Sony Music boss and from 2008 onwards for them Scandinavian countries Manager of Universal Music. There were always small glimmers of hope. For example when Apple launched iTunes, but the service never really gained a foothold in Sweden. Other payment services have come and gone, as has the brief ringtone trend. It didn’t help much. “Why would people pay for music online when they could download it for free?”
In one scene he was visiting the parents of his children’s friends, Sundin comes back to the series: “There’s a super expensive system in the house, but they download music from Pirate Bay.” Such situations actually happened. “We were really desperate.”
Of course, the music industry cracked down on the platforms, but the digital trend itself could not be banned. The digital pioneer country Sweden was particularly in focus here. Because this also went hand in hand with the fact that piracy had flourished like in hardly any other country, according to Sundin: “We simply needed a service that worked.” At some point everyone noticed that the pressure was too great to resist the change to fight back, Sundin sums it up: “I’m not sure if Spotify would ever have taken off like this without Pirate Bay.”