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The Ark runs tax gauntlet with music magazine

Swedish glam band The Ark's novel approach to combating music industry monetary woes by releasing its new album as a magazine freebie could have fallen foul of tax agency regulations and ultimately prove costly for the band.

The Ark runs tax gauntlet with music magazine

Kerstin Alvesson at the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) told The Local on Friday that as an investigation has not yet been opened into the tax case, it was only possible to talk in general terms about sales tax rules.

“The 6 percent sales tax only applies to magazines where the accompanying product does not hold any value. Like kids magazines where you get a toy when you buy the magazine. The price is still the same because the toy has no value,” Kerstin Alvesson explained to The Local.

The tax agency was on Friday unable to comment on whether an investigation would be launched into the innovative tax trick by The Ark who were able to circumvent the higher 25 percent rate levied on music, and pay the 6 percent rate levied on books and magazines instead.

The Local reported at the end of April of the plan by the glam rockers to release their new album entitled In Full Regalia together with a 100 page magazine featuring articles spanning the 20-year history of the band as well as lyrics to the songs.

The magazine went on sale at a retail price of 99 kronor ($12) and it is the value of the magazine relative to the value of the CD that would be the factor considered when determining sales tax levies.

Sales tax laws introduced in 2002 state that magazines with accompanying products, such as books, movies or CD’s, where the product has a value, do not fall under the 6 percent sales tax bracket. Instead there should be an increase in price and they should have a 25 percent sales tax meaning that the band in this case may become liable to pay the difference in price and a tax surcharge.

“Any investigation would have to see whether or not the CD has a supplementary value to the magazine and then should have raise the value. In this case it was not a small flyer, the magazine was 100 pages long, so that would be taken into account,” Alvesson explained.

Alvesson furthermore added that there are additional clauses in the law that could exempt you from having to pay the additional charges with the law allowing for “special circumstances”, such as a first time declaration.

Kerstin Alvesson underlined that she does not want to speculate about the individual case concerning The Ark and their magazine.

“I can’t say that there will be an investigation or what a possible outcome of one would be,” she said.

While the tax break was a cited as a motivating factor for the band’s marketing decision, it was not the only one.

“There are around 80 specialized record outlets and a lot of towns don’t have a record store any more. Instead, we’ll now have 600 sales outlets, so on Monday April 26th hardly anyone will be more than 500 metres from an Ark CD,” the band’s manager Jon Gray told the Svenska Dagbladet daily at the time.

The innovative promotion idea seems to have paid off with album selling gold (more than 20,000 albums) within only a week of going on sale. The album reached as high as second place on the Swedish top chart, Sverigetopplistan.

The Ark has enjoyed enormous popularity in Sweden over the past decade when all four of its albums topped the Swedish charts.

Lee Martin

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MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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