From music to fashion: how Stockholm’s creative talent will bounce back post-Covid

If you live in or have spent time in Stockholm, you’ll be familiar with its creative energy and cutting-edge innovations within music, gaming, film and fashion.

From music to fashion: how Stockholm's creative talent will bounce back post-Covid
Photo: Getty Images

Creative industries that depend on connecting with an audience have faced obvious challenges arising from Covid-19. But with the rollout of vaccinations progressing, there’s renewed optimism in Stockholm among both creative people and politicians about the city’s cultural future.

The creative and cultural industries are already a hugely important part of the city’s economy – and exciting new developments are just around the corner. The Local, in partnership with Invest Stockholm, takes the pulse of Sweden’s capital – and finds plenty of signs of creative resilience. 

Interested in culture? Find out about the most exciting exhibitions and events in Stockholm right now

Brain businesses: a true knowledge hub

The beating heart of Stockholm is undeniably creative. But how can you hope to quantify such a quality? 

Well, one way is to look closer at the knowledge economy – consisting of jobs that are more intellectually-driven than physical in nature. So-called ‘brain businesses’ are on the rise in many European cities.

Nonetheless, Stockholm ranks third in Europe in this regard, behind only Bratislava and Oxford, according to the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform think-tank. This is sure proof of a thriving “creative class”, to use the term popularised by the author and expert in urban studies, Richard Florida. 

As stated in Creative & Cultural Industries in Stockholm, a 2020 report published by Invest Stockholm, this means both supply and demand for creative talent are high. With around one in 20 employees in Stockholm involved in the creative and cultural industries (almost 64,000 people), the report makes the case that these people are “not only passionate souls, but also professionals” who are vital to the city’s economy.

And since talent attracts talent, plenty of bright minds from around the world are choosing to make Stockholm their home.

Music: why Stockholm can still hit the high notes  

Stockholm’s global reputation as a heavyweight player in the music industry goes back decades. Whether your taste is more ABBA or Avicii, you’re sure to know something about the talent – and perhaps you stream it via Stockholm-based Spotify? Stars of today like Seinabo Sey and Tove Lo continue to burnish the Stockholm name internationally.

What about the hard figures? The average annual value added per music industry job in the city is around 1.6 million Swedish kronor, according to last year’s Invest Stockholm report. That’s more than 40 percent above Stockholm’s overall average figure per job.

Few industries face more direct challenges as a result of Covid-19. But once enough people have been vaccinated and gigs return, Stockholm’s live music scene is sure to bounce back strongly, further cementing the city’s status as a leading musical talent base.

The city’s proven track record in music is underpinned by factors that remain as relevant as ever, including reliable policies and high freedom of expression. Don’t be surprised when the next Stockholm superstar bursts to prominence – nor if it happens via social media first, and on stage second.

Find out about Stockholm’s key cultural attractions – and visiting opportunities in person or online

Photo: Tove Freij/

Gaming: booming industry seeks Space to grow

Every eighth person in the world has played a game made by Swedes. So even if gaming isn’t your thing, you’ve probably at least glimpsed one of the famed Swedish creations on somebody else’s phone at some point.

Autumn 2021 will see the doors of Space, a new digital cultural centre, open in central Stockholm. It will also be Europe’s largest permanent esport and gaming venue, with more than 500 ‘fully equipped stations’ in its gaming centre.

Space will also feature a multi-purpose arena, content creation and music studios, restaurants and cafes. It will allow creative types to thrive and to “have a stronger sense of belonging”, says Gustav Käll, CEO and co-founder.

A true Stockholm success story, gaming is also big business. Some 13 of Sweden’s biggest 16 gaming firms are in Stockholm. The value generated per employee is 2.2 million Swedish kronor – almost twice that of the average Stockholm job. 

Space will also eventually offer co-working space. The idea is to encourage Stockholm startups to develop business models in the midst of their potential audience – the digital natives shaping tomorrow’s world.

Fashion: from second-hand solutions to human holograms

Fashion is the biggest of Stockholm’s creative and cultural industries, with annual revenue of more than 69 billion Swedish kronor. Stockholmers are known for being stylish and Scandinavian design continues to be a source of fascination for much of the world.

Sustainability, a topic that permeates all areas of life in Stockholm, is also central to the city’s contemporary fashion industry. Stockholmers love to shop second-hand and companies like Sellpy, Arkivet and ReRobe have tapped into this interest to make it easier than ever to buy and sell used clothing and other items. 

Looking ahead, could the fashion and tech worlds come together in Stockholm to provide inventive new customer experiences and offerings? 

Monki, which is part of H&M group, focuses on supporting change towards more sustainable, “circular production”. The Monki brand has also investigated the potential for customers to use “high definition human holograms in Augmented Reality” to view outfits before buying online. 

Architecture: designing a better future 

Of all the sub-industries in the creative and cultural sector, the biggest growth since 2010 has come in architecture. That’s true in terms of both turnover and employees.

Major ongoing projects in Stockholm include a strong focus on sustainability but also on creating ‘urban villages’ that restore a positive sense of community. Indeed, the concept of community is central to so much of what can keep the creative industries strong in challenging times. 

And no matter what your cultural interests, or whether you get involved in person or online, you can always play a role in supporting what you love in a city as full of creative activity as Stockholm.

Looking for cultural things to see and do in Stockholm this summer? Check out the city’s latest choice of exhibitions, activities and more

Member comments

  1. Indicates how far Sweden has come and how much it has benefitted from globalization, the EU and yes, its self-propelled Americanization… When I came to Sweden 20 years ago– “creativity” was considered a bad thing. To call someone “creative” was a veiled insult, which implied they were violating the Jante codes of doing and thinking everything the same as everyone else. And this was in academia– at the universities (where one would have assumed creative thinking was the aim)! The Jante logic still thrives today in smaller towns and industries– and in the government bureaucracy– just scratch the surface.

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How to find a job in Sweden: Five tips from those who’ve been there, done that

The Swedish job market poses unique challenges for newcomers. The Local's readers share their best tips for cracking the career code.

How to find a job in Sweden: Five tips from those who've been there, done that

Network, network, network!

A statistic that often gets tossed around is that seven out of ten jobs in Sweden are obtained through personal connections, and there’s no doubt that a good network is crucial to your job hunt, making the labour market extra challenging for newcomers to the country.

In fact, networking was the main tip mentioned by The Local’s readers.

“The job market is quite hot in Sweden, and talent is in short supply. People hiring do not have a lot of time to find the right talent, and tips from friends, colleagues and former colleagues are the way to first, find out organisations are hiring, and secondly, get your CV on the short list,” said Kyle, a Canadian reader who works in innovation management in Gothenburg.

“If you are going for a major employer like Volvo, network gets you in the door, as HR does not have much to do with hiring… the hiring managers do all of it and have no time, due to the insane number of consensus meetings. If you are looking for smaller organisations, they have even less time to find people, and networking is their primary way to find talent,” he added.


Some of the networking tips readers mentioned were going to job fairs, getting an internship to help you establish connections in your preferred field, joining clubs (this could be anything from your local gardening association to meetups for coders, but focus on clubs that may be popular among people working in your chosen field), and drawing on your organic network of friends, neighbours and others.

Don’t neglect the groundwork

The saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is getting worn out (and people may look at you funny if you turn up to interviews in a Batman suit), but there’s truth to the notion of making sure you know what you want – and preparing for it.

In other words, don’t wait for a job ad to appear before you start to customise your CV and figure out what skill set you need. Create your CV now so that you’re ready to tweak it to your dream job – you could even have a general look at job ads in your field to see what requirements are needed. And don’t forget to spruce up your LinkedIn profile so that it fits with your career goals.

“I believe that several factors contribute to successfully landing a desirable job in Sweden. It’s essential to prepare to meet the requirements beyond just having a university degree. Many individuals realise these requirements only after completing their studies when they start searching for a job, which can be too late,” said Adnan Aslam from Pakistan, who works as a food inspector.

“I recommend identifying the job advertisements for positions you aspire to hold in the future and then preparing for those requirements during your studies. For me, acquiring a basic level of proficiency in the Swedish language and obtaining a Swedish driving licence were crucial. I pursued these goals during my studies and was able to secure a desirable job before graduating,” he added.


Felipe Cabral even has a GPT assistant trained on his own CVs and old cover letters, and said the set-up only takes ten minutes if you already have your documents. “With that in place, you can give instructions like: Read this job description and create a tailored version of my CV and letter for it. (…) Remember to always review and ask it not to create data aside from your documents.”

Be flexible and ready to adapt

Moving to a new place inevitably means having to learn not just the practicalities such as how to write a CV or which websites to use to look for job openings, but also learning how to navigate a new culture with all its unspoken expectations.

Swedish workplaces are generally less hierarchical than many other countries, but that doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want whenever you want without anyone raising an eyebrow. Swedes are usually direct, but be careful of being too abrasive or boastful: raising your voice, even during a spirited argument, or banging your own drum to show off your skills may not go down well.

“Talk, deliberate, complain like a Swede and you’ll come across like you know what the job entails, so your trustworthiness increases,” said an Indian data analyst who preferred to remain anonymous.

“Office politics are just as strong in Sweden as anywhere else. The flat hierarchy is deceiving as social hierarchy is enforced quite a bit in that lack of formal hierarchy. Take your time in learning these dynamics wherever you work before revealing your talent and capabilities. Expect those internal politics to happen, and they won’t hurt so much when they do,” said Kyle, the Canadian reader in Gothenburg.

This article about Swedish office politics may be useful.

Stay true to yourself

Adapting to your surroundings is one thing. Completely changing who you are is another.

For one thing, your happiness is as important as your career progression, and for another, your foreignness need not be an impediment: it’s also a skill that sets you apart from the rest. It means you have unique experience, and also, in the right setting, provides an opportunity to sometimes violate those social rules we mentioned above, because people assume you will, anyway.

“Trust is key. Build trust in your network, work with integrity. It’s OK to violate jantelagen if you are maintaining integrity. Sometimes your outsider and more honest/open opinion will burn bridges, especially those that may feel threatened by talent. But it will build trust with other colleagues who see it as brave and more trustworthy to work with,” said Kyle from Canada.

Hunker down for the long haul

We don’t want to scare you, because there are plenty of examples of people who quickly find their dream job in Sweden and settle into their new workplace, enjoying perks such as long summer holidays, generous parental leave and the famous work-life balance.

But if you do find it tougher than you expected: know that you’re not alone.

Several readers who responded to the survey said they were still trying to find a job in Sweden.

“I found jobs all over Europe but not here. They say they have a lack of experienced senior engineers but the don’t seem to be doing much to solve this,” said a Brazilian in Gothenburg.

A reader from Bangladesh said she was “at a loss” as to how to make a career change from her current AI role in Stockholm, despite many years of experience as an IT project manager.

“Over the past 18 months, I’ve submitted over 600 applications to various organisations. Unfortunately, despite being overqualified for some positions, I’ve faced rejections at every turn, from both large and small companies. The job market here, especially for foreign-born women, feels overwhelmingly challenging,” she said, adding that the struggle had impacted her mental health.

The Local has on several occasions reported on foreign residents’ struggle to get a foot on the Swedish job ladder, with many facing hurdles such as employers’ unfamiliarity with international degrees, discrimination, or a lack of network that can provide paths into a company.

So during the job hunt, don’t forget to care for yourself. Share your concerns with fellow job-seekers, ask for help and join networking groups – this is good not just for creating new contacts, but also in terms of your social well-being and meeting people who are in a similar situation.

And finally, as one British reader in Stockholm advised, keep looking: “Be open-minded with the opportunities that present themselves. It isn’t an easy market to enter and doesn’t feel inclusive.” But he added, “don’t give up”.