When people refer to Stockholm as being "cool", they may be referring to its many quirky bars, clubs and cafés, but such a description could easily be a reference to the city's climate. The city gets on average 1800 hours of sunshine a year, which is a far cry from Hollywood’s 3265 hours.
But while Sweden's largest city may not be able to compete with the world's movie capital when it comes to the weather conditions, it is doing a good job of emulating Hollywood's movie-making qualities. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a film that brought in more than $262m in revenues in 2011, was shot in the city and is based on a novel written by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. On top of that, Swedish computer game programmers are also achieving worldwide success with titles such as Battlefield (which has sold more than 60 million copies) and Minecraft, while Stockholm-based musicians have been producing internationally renowned music for more than four decades. And more recently, the music streaming service Spotify, which was founded in Stockholm, has taken the internet by storm.
Given that Stockholm has a population of only 870,000 people and the whole country has fewer residents than, for example, Portugal or the Czech Republic, it would seem that when it comes to the creative industries, the Swedish capital punches well above its weight. “Because of the size of the country, people have a global mindset from the very start,” says Rob Meadows, CEO of Originate, a venture capital firm that invests in technology start-ups.
Mr Meadows, who divides his time between offices in Stockholm and California's Silicon Valley, admits that after his company made a decision to expand to Europe, other, more obvious locations were taken into consideration first. “We were thinking about going to London or Berlin. But Stockholm has a less noisy environment. It is easier to spot good ideas and talent here,” he says.
Stockholm’s limited size comes in handy as it helps countries present in the city to reach out to other creative professionals when needed. “If you want to work with [the band] The Cardigans, you just call them. And if you do not know them, you know someone who knows them,” says Ingrid Rudefors, the film commissioner of the Stockholm Film Commission.
Although Stockholm has a couple of districts where artistic types gather, the city does not contain a creative focal point similar to London’s Silicon Roundabout or Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard. “Places where creative people get together can be found all over the city. Because the [city is small], there is no need for one main gathering place. That in turn enables people from across all sectors to mingle,” says Ludvig Werner, managing director at Swedish office of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Given this collaboration between so many people in Stockholm's creative industries, co-operation between professionals working in this sphere seems to run more smoothly. “In the US I often have a problem in speaking with programmers about the design side of things, and with the designers about technical specifications. Here, the collaborative approach is much better,” says Mr Meadows, who adds that he values the Swedish blunt and no-nonsense approach to giving feedback and evaluating projects.
Per Stromback, a spokesperson for the Swedish Game Industry, an organisation that has such companies as Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard among its members, admits that the Swedish way of doing business is often praised by foreign clients. “Swedes are honest and reliable and we are seen as delivering what we promise,” says Mr Stromback. “It is funny given that when I was in the programming industry, we never gave the real reasons for our delays,” he adds with a healthy dose of Swedish irony.
Stockholm-based businesses deliver products that are famous worldwide. And as a consequence, more and more figures from the entertainment world are utilising the city's key qualities, causing a snowball effect in the creative industry. “It all started in the 1970s with the first hits produced by the Swedish music industry. Not only musicians, but also producers and songwriters started to follow up on the success,” says Mr Werner, pointing to the specific “supply chain” of professionals.
The same situation can be observed in other industries, such as computer games or films. “David Fincher, the director of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was planning to shoot in Stockholm for seven days. After coming here, he decided to stay for 14 weeks, since he found the right type of people to work here,” says Ms Rudefors. Those 'right' people might soon have the chance to work with another major US director, according to Ms Rudefors. “Woody Allen announced at a conference in June that he might consider filming one of his movies in Stockholm. We are extraordinarily interested in that opportunity,” she says.
Hall of Fame
While Stockholm is on its way to gaining broader recognition for its potential in the film industry, Swedish pop music has a worldwide following already. It is for this reason why, in 2013, the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, an institution dedicated to showcasing the likes of Abba, Roxette, Swedish House Mafia and Loreen (this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner), will be opened. “Visitors associate our city with famous pop hits... Soon they will have a chance to experience it in a whole different way,” says Charlotte Wiking, CEO of the Swedish Music Hall of Fame.
The institution will not only showcase exhibitions, but will also contain a stage where both professionals and amateurs will be able to perform. Ms Wiking predicts that the stage will be popular not only with tourists, but also locals. “We have a unique singing tradition, and we like to sing together during various festivities,” she says.
Traditionally, Swedes have also a long history of story-telling. According to Mr Stromberg, those traditions are connected with Stockholm’s climate. “Winters are long and dark here. You have to do something, so you create,” he says.
The cost of this report was underwritten by the Stockholm Business Region. Reporting and editing were carried out independently by fDi.