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Will Songwriting Survive Streaming? Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus Is Worried.

  • May 08, 2021

The pandemic has put the focus on the plight of the songwriter. Suddenly the artists were in the same situation. Their only income was suddenly just streaming. “My God, I can’t live on this. I can’t pay the rent.” And we songwriters said, “Hey, welcome to the world of songwriters. This is what it’s like for us.”

So it’s time for change. And I think because of the pandemic, there will be change. There’s movement now, on both sides of the Atlantic. There’s a realization that the song is such a valuable asset to the industry and that we need to treat the songwriters better.

If songwriters are unable to make a real living from streaming, what’s going to happen if this problem is not fixed?

Everyone is going to find out that more of the songwriters have turned to driving Ubers instead of songwriting. There will be a lot of do-it-yourself people. But people with long careers? Oh, that’s going to be very, very difficult in the current climate.

The top, elite layer, they will always make it, of course. But there was a layer underneath that used to be able to live from their songwriting, and sometimes would push their way up to the elite because they had the time to develop. Benny Andersson and I are prime examples of that. Before we wrote “Waterloo” and won the Eurovision Song Contest, we were in a rat race as well, running around, producing other people, writing songs for other people, sometimes touring in different constellations, just to pay the rent.

When the copyright money came pouring in after “Waterloo,” we said no to everything else. And we just sat down and decided to write from 9 to 5 every weekday. Some songs got finished in two months or two years, even. We would pick up a bridge from two years back that would suddenly fit into the song we were working on. That’s how we became, I think, good songwriters. And that’s what I want for more people, but they have to start off by being able to live off their songwriting.

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