Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?

Solveig Rundquist
Solveig Rundquist - [email protected]
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?

What is Stockholm's secret? How has the city taken over the the music and tech worlds? What's in the water? And will the bubble burst? The Brilliant Minds conference brought up these questions and more.


In April Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Avicii's manager Ash Pournouri announced the launch of a major new event highlighting Stockholm as "the creative capital of the world".

Under the umbrella of Symposium Stockholm, the event included concerts, music awards, and more aimed at creating "a meeting ground for the world’s most innovative individuals to come together”.

The event's centrepiece, the Brilliant Minds Conference, kicked off on Thursday afternoon and wrapped up on Friday night, June 12th.

A select group of entrepreneurs, music mavens, CEOs and tech gurus were invited to the event, along with a handful of specially-selected foreign and domestic media. The Local was among them.

”This isn't about Spotify or anything else,” Spotify founder Daniel Ek declared at the opening ceremony of the event. ”It's about the future of great ideas.”

Daniel Ek and Ash Pournouri. Photo: Filip Cederholm

The conference also addressed Sweden's reputation as a music and tech hub despite its less-than-convenient location.

"Sweden is on top of all the trends, but geographically, we're still in the boondocks," Annie Wegelius, media entrepreneur and stage host for the event, said at the opening.

”And one reason is that we have an unusually boring self-image. Daniel and Ash created this conference to encourage Swedes to be proud and stand a little taller.”

The first speaker on Thursday was none other than HRH Prince Daniel, husband to Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

”It's not a coincidence that Sweden leads the world in tech and in music, but it wasn't a given, either,” he said in his speech titled 'Where Unicorns Breed'.

”There are common elements behind Sweden's success, the four same elements ever since the Viking era: Desire for freedom, openness to the world, being a country held together by trust, and quite a few eccentrics.”

The prince encouraged Swedish companies to continue thinking outside the box, and concluded with a reminder that Sweden's success is largely based on immigration.

”Let us never forget that our openness to the world is what has built this country,” he said. ”We shouldn't forget the thousands and thousands of immigrants who have shaped our history, then and now.”

Another highlight of the event was Abba songwriter and producer Björn Ulvaeus, who captivated the audience with his reflections on what it means to be ”ancient” and how Swedish music went from obscurity to topping the billboards.

”There was a time when no one outside of Sweden wanted to hear anything about Swedish music,” Ulvaeus said. ”Why bother? How could anything good come from that little place way up north?”

With a dose of self-deprecating humour, the songwriter recalled how the band's first song in the US was picked up only by Playboy Records – and was a resounding flop. He also bashed the group's name: ”I think Abba is quite possibly the worst name in pop history,” he declared.

The Swedish star also had sharp words for Youtube.

”YouTube is parasiting on artists as well as cannibalizing on the pure players like Spotify,” he said.

Social media instantly went wild about the strength of his accusations, but Ulvaeus remained unfazed.

”The young man I was in the 1970s would never have done this, speaking his mind like I have now. Back then life was one big popularity contest. Now I don't care.”

Other speakers and performers at the two-day event included Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, Gapminder co-founder Hans Rosling, and Swedish singers Zara Larsson, Daniel Adams-Ray, and Mapei.

Singer Daniel Adams-Ray. Photo: The Local

American rapper Wyclef Jean was also present, stealing the limelight on Friday with his comments about his love for Sweden and his upcoming partnership with Ash Pournouri's At Night Management.

The performer recently made headlines in Sweden for saying he wanted to move to the little town of Sandviken, but at the Brilliant Minds Conference, he made it clear that it's no new development.

”I don't know how it's going viral now, I've been coming here since 1999,” he exclaimed. ”I'm here so much anyway, it's only right. I love Sweden, I'm just waiting for that passport, baby.”

Wyclef Jean also paid homage to Sweden's famously beautiful women.

”I can't go back to Brooklyn now. You got the most beautifulest women out here, it's the truth. And the women love chocolate here,” he added with a grin.

The conference concluded with a surprise performance from Wyclef Jean, previewing his new music.

Wyclef Jean performing at Brilliant Minds. Photo: Bingo Rimer

The organizers made it clear that this was just the inaugural event, and that Symposium Stockholm will be back with a vengeance next year, cementing Sweden's place on the global creativity map.

"We’re at a breaking point between old and new media and tech, with creativity as the umbrella," Ash Pournouri told media on Friday. "Now, we have the conference to represent it. “


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