From The Heart Of Stockholm

Artist Series | Lykke Li

In this month’s chapter of sofmema’s Artist Series I am telling the story of one of the most beautiful and free creators from the heart of Stockholm. Lykke Li. When I thought about who to cover in this month’s Artist Series her name immediately came to mind. As an artist that remained true to herself despite international success, Lykke Li leveraged her talent, network and brains to grow her career, providing a great example to independent artists all over the world.

A Short Bio

Born in Skåne, Sweden, daughter of a photographer and a punk-reggae musician, Lykke Li felt from early on that there was no way for her but to be an artist.

Ever since I was a kid, for me being an artist was doing it all.

Having moved between different countries (Portugal, India, Morocco, Nepal) while growing up, her albums depict a journey from ingenuity and teenage love to maturity and adulthood’s complicated relationships. From blues to sorrow, from grip to letting go, Li’s music sends you into a twirl of emotions. → you can find links to her albums below.

There are a lot of things I am fascinated with in Lykke Li besides her music. And I believe that some of them may actually be useful for indie acts to know and perhaps copy or make their own.

Indie Pop, Not Pop

Two weeks ago I talked about finding your identity as an artist and I briefly mentioned Lykke Li and the way her albums are so coherently connected to one another. The singer is quite smart about her positioning in the music sphere. Not sure if by nature or by strategy, she has always placed herself as an indie artist and not as a pop artist, even though her music can be considered pop. Once you’re labeled as pop, many non-music factors come to play, which can turn you off from what you’re actually trying to accomplish.

Another aspect to add to the positioning argument is Li’s looks and fashion style. I don’t know much about fashion, as you can easily notice when passing me by on the street, but it is hard not to notice her simplicity and nordic aesthetics. You’ll always see her in black clothes, naked lips, dark eye liner. Not really your typical pop artist, is it? Exactly. All these elements together add up to Lykke Li’s image as an indie artist.


Until I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix) was released (2011), Wounded Rhymes was still mostly known in Europe only. The first single of the album was Get Some, which was quite successful and got considerable radio airplay, although not so much in major radio stations and other mainstream channels. However, upon the release of DJ Magician’s remix of the album’s second single — I Follow Rivers — the whole world was singing along and Lykke Li’s name was proclaimed overseas.

It is not uncommon to see songs that were made famous through remixes. Despacito is one of them. Until the audio was remixed and Justin Bieber was featured, Luis Fonsi’s song was only known by few. Truth is that since the early 90’s clubs have become one of the most efficient platforms to showcase new music. Put a beat behind a good song and you have a club hit. Mainstream music has evolved towards serving clubs in a way. Pop music is highly influenced by genres like electro, house or even some elements of techno.

So, reach out to producers that you like and get your songs remixed. It doesn’t make a career but it can help push it further.

Free Download of Exclusive Content

I remember when I started listening to Youth Novels. I was still in high school and just fell in love with the voice in Little Bit (even remixed Everybody But Me). I devoured that album. So, I was naturally eager to listen to more from this artist. To my surprise, songs like Paris Blue and Possibility were made available for free on Lykke Li’s website. This kept me interested and following her social media for updates on a possible new album. Then Wounded Rhymes was launched. Shortly after Lost Sessions Vol. 1, an EP with alternate versions of some of the album’s top songs, was made available on her site for free download.

Keeping your audience engaged is a challenge. We’re consumerists in a fast paced digital age. We consume a song now, but very soon after we’re ready to move on to the next thing. If you keep feeding your audience high quality, exclusive and valuable content, then they will follow and stay with you. If you don’t try to keep the cycle going or don’t care about the audience, then forget about it.

LL Recordings

All Lykke Li’s albums are released under LL Recordings. While there isn’t much information about this label, one can assume the name stands for Lykke Li Recordings, as the only releases so far belong to the singer. Many artists nowadays, both independent and major, choose to create their own labels or entertainment enterprises. This is a growing trend in music since digital scaled. A few points that could have motivated this are:

  • Retaining a bigger portion of revenue from sales of your music — labels take a percentage of every sale or stream, so by removing this party from the equation you get a larger cut of your sales. However, please keep in mind that in this case you will have other costs, such as production and delivery.
  • Owning your master rights  the master is the actual live/studio recording of an artist’s material. In most record deals artists are required to relinquish the master recording rights to ensure the label’s financial support. This means that the label has the right to license these recordings to third parties without the artist’s consent or monetary gain. Owning the master yourself allows you to license your music at your own terms.
  • Freedom to do things at your own pace and style

Licensing to Warner Music

Another smart move. Licensing her albums to a major label. What does this mean? It means that the major label (Warner Music) bought the rights to Lykke Li’s albums for a set fee. This allows them to sell the records in the agreed markets. This can be either good or bad for the artist.

  • Good — if the album does not sell well, you don’t lose any money, all loss is on the label’s side, as they are responsible for manufacturing, promoting and distributing the records. Besides that, you already got paid a set fee for the records rights.
  • Bad — if the album does better than expected, you don’t gain anything from those record sales, because you were already paid a set fee for the records rights.

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