Column: Avicii and his digital legacy

Estimated reading time - 5 minutes

The music from late singer Amy Winehouse remains timeless. And in that sense, Winehouse lives on. The same applies to the music of Swedish DJ and producer Avicii, who died a fortnight ago. It quickly became clear that for some people, the DJ could be spoken about in the same breath as the likes of Winehouse and the legendary Jimi Hendrix, for example. The 27 club is for legendary artists who died on or around their 27th year. Avicii is the first DJ / dance artist in the company of the 27-year olds, an exclusive group that traditionally only consisted of pop and rock artists. What is Avicii´s legacy? And in which form will his music live on?

Tributes and documentaries

After the premature death of a famous artist, it seems to be standard that a slew of tributes and documentaries are released, often in the form of ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest hits’ albums. Films are also made about their hectic and turbulent lives. But what tributes happen in today´s digital age?

A documentary about the Swedish DJ, entitled True Stories, is already out on Netflix and currently trending. It is unlikely that anything will be added to that film. The story behind the life of the DJ is already well-documented in this film, automatically offering many viewers an explanation for his death. Tribute albums, as we used to know them, are a thing of the past. After all, all the music is already online on the various streaming services. Then the question about this DJ´s demise arises and how his music will survive him, specifically in the digital age. I investigated the musical career of Avicii on Spotify, assisted by data from Fanalists which spans a few years.


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Download here the report: Avicii on Spotify (2015 – 2018)


Always in the Top 200

The music from Swedish DJ and dance producer Avicii, the artist name of Tim Bergling, inspired an enormous amount of people. Correctly chosen, high-quality vocals, interspersed with lively and perfectly sequenced beats, synths and samples: this became his trademark and unique success factor.

The DJ had been releasing music since 2008. In 2011, he had his international breakthrough with Levels. The successful follow up was Wake Me Up. The track (deservedly) scooped the number one spot in almost every European chart, in Australia, New Zealand and Israel. Wake Me Up was the highest selling single of 2013 in the Netherlands. The track held the number one spot for seven consecutive weeks in Ireland. The single was the soundtrack to all major dance festivals across the globe. It became the fastest selling single in the UK, among other places. Wake Me Up enjoyed almost 100,000 sales in England alone on its day of release.

When you look at the data from the largest streaming service in the world, Spotify, the success of Avicii in the last 4 years can be demonstrated as follows. Since April 2014, the DJ has not left the monthly global Top 200. In the last 48 months he was in the Top 10 no less than 14 times. He held the top spot for 5 months. The median of the number of global streams is almost 700,000 a day.

The effect of stopping

Avicii´s appeal was his ability to produce exactly the music that people like at that particular moment. It is electronic music with gentle, but distinct sounds, and also features a wide range of instrumental influences. It is therefore no surprise that he enjoyed a large fan base at that time. In 2016, he had 19 million fans on Facebook, 1.9 million followers on Twitter, 5 million on Instagram and 9 million on YouTube. The peak streams each day on Spotify regularly exceeded one million back then.

In April 2016 (just over two years ago) Avicii surprised everyone by announcing he was quitting his DJ career. He later stated that he had taken the decision primarily for health reasons. At the end of August that year, it was all over for Avicii. The Swedish DJ played his last set at the world famous Ushuaïa club in Ibiza.

The effect of new music

After his decision to stop performing, things went quiet for a while for the DJ. The digital effect of this was instantly evident. Social media activity and interaction dropped, subsequently leading to a decrease in the number of listeners and streams from the artist. Avicii was back in the summer of 2017, releasing the Avicii 01 EP. The release contained hits such as Without You and Lonely Together.

Immediately following the release of his new music, there was an increase in the consumption of his music as well. The activity of his social media channels also increased significantly. The pattern of posts increased once again and in turn also the engagement of his followers. The number 1 position in the Spotify global Top 200 was immediately conquered once again; having in excess of 2 million streams a day was not an exception for this DJ. His listening figures improved in this period, even topping those of 30 months earlier.

Posthumous record

Tim Bergling was found dead in his hotel room in Muscat, the capital of Oman, on 20 April 2018. On 26 April 2018, his family released an open letter about his death. The letter implies suicide, which was confirmed during the post-mortem. The 28-year old artist was just one year older than pop legend Amy Winehouse. The internet exploded with interest about this tragedy around this period.

On Google Trends, the searches rose through the digital roof. Every self- respecting (digital) news medium reported on the passing of the Swedish superstar. In the past, the link between a digital buzz and consumption of music has been clearly proven, see also: our first book Such a response could now also be expected.

In the days shortly after his death, Avicii´s music was streamed more than 4 million times on a single day. His social media channels also grew significantly, some of the channels by approximately 10 percent. Millions of fans started following his Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. The Swedish DJ broke his own record on music streaming site Spotify posthumously, which (rather ironically) also originates from Sweden. We did not have to wait very long for the digital tribute to Avicii – it has already started.

For now, the Swedish icon lives on in the digital ecosystem. The imminent funeral and the long awaited new album that is still slated for release will contribute to that legacy. It appears that Avicii´s digital assets will continue to rise posthumously.

* The insights featured in this column were made possible thanks to the Fanalists team providing the Spotify data. The column contains sections from a chapter from Denis’ new Dutch book ‘Digitaal vermogen – de macht, kracht en potentie van elke organisatie’ (Digital assets – the power, strength and potential of every organisation).

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