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這支神秘樂隊,掌控龐大的商業帝國

這支神秘樂隊,掌控龐大的商業帝國

Katherine Dunn 2021年09月10日
成員都是被音樂“耽誤”的商界奇才

1980年3月,《High Fidelity》雜志曾經宣布,瑞典長期流行的超級組合實現了新里程碑:“ABBA:為沖刺《財富》美國500強做好準備”。

當然,這是個玩笑,當年該樂隊年并未出現在《財富》美國500強排行榜上。不過,四名成員組成的流行樂隊加上精明的商業經理斯蒂格·安德森,確實掌控著龐大的商業帝國。樂隊解散的兩年前,樂隊里的兩對夫妻勞燕分飛,成員旗下非傳統金融資產包括一家Monark功率自行車廠、一家租賃集團,還有一家瀕臨破產的石油貿易公司,后來該公司因為一筆現貨原油交易時機把握不準而虧損了300多萬英鎊。

在樂團的興衰過程中,類似的交易只是強化了ABBA經濟驅動流行音樂機器的形象,而當年的這種形象并非總是正面。

幾十年后,商業帝國也還在持續。由于《媽媽咪呀》(Mamma Mia)舞臺劇和電影持續多年獲得大筆收入,上周該樂隊宣布發行一張新專輯,還推出了虛擬的老年版形象。與樂隊活躍的年代相比,這次明顯少了憤世嫉俗的成分。

“我對這支樂隊的輝煌歷程充滿欽佩和嫉妒。”牛津大學賽德商學院(Oxford University's Sa?d Business School)的管理實踐研究員亞歷克斯·康諾克說道。這家瑞典超級樂隊如此知名的原因除了其流行音樂才能,還有敏銳的商業嗅覺。

我有一個夢想

1972年,ABBA推出了第一首瑞典熱門歌曲,歌名為《人們需要愛》(People Need Love)。兩年后,樂隊推出的《滑鐵盧》(Waterloo)在國際上實現突破,該歌曲在1974年的歐洲電視歌曲大賽(Eurovision Song Contest)上獲勝。

樂隊的四位成員比約恩·奧瓦爾斯、本尼·安德森、阿格妮莎·福斯克格和安妮-弗瑞德·林斯塔德,早在第一首歌曲問世時就已經是瑞典音樂界老手。安德森和奧瓦爾斯作曲,阿格妮莎和安妮-弗瑞德演唱。

他們跟經理的關系安排也相當精明,經理既是唱片制作人也是音樂發行人,不僅擁有樂隊權益,最終也持有品牌Polar Music。

瑞典流行組合ABBA于1974年在斯德哥爾摩拍攝的照片。圖片來源:OLLE LINDEBORG—AFP/Getty Images

《亮光與暗影——ABBA的真實故事》(Bright Lights Dark Shadows—The Real Story of ABBA)一書作者卡爾·馬格納斯·帕爾姆表示,這一安排可以推動樂隊不斷前進,在當時并不尋常。

“當他們聯起手來,就不用擔心糟心的音樂交易,也不會行幼稚之舉。”他說。

由于種種安排,樂隊在財務和創意方面擁有一定程度的控制權,能夠在瑞典市場掌控歌曲創作、表演和制作,在其他市場都挑選最好的唱片公司發行,這在音樂行業同樣很罕見。帕爾姆指出,通過該方式,樂隊發展非常順利,也通過談判獲得了更有利的版稅分配。

巡演規劃也相當高效,樂隊不用忍受漫長疲憊的巡演,而是在觀眾最多的市場中挑選電視節目亮相。

“他們非常理性。”他說,“人們都認為搖滾歌星、流行歌星都是自由的精神,一心只想做音樂然后巡演,通常伴隨著毒品、酒精和粉絲。”

然而在20世紀70年代,人們開始懷疑樂隊。不僅有人批評ABBA音樂公式化、商業化,他們的營銷策略也遭到冷嘲熱諷。在《High Fidelity》發表三年前,《滾石》雜志(Rolling Stone)曾經過發表《商業之聲》(Sound of Business),關于樂隊的長篇專題。文中記者戴夫·馬奇指出,樂隊“有條不紊”地崛起“讓一些人懷疑樂隊是不是對營銷的興趣比音樂更大。”

泰勒·斯威夫特也曾經通過重新錄制早期專輯來重新獲得表演權,如今像這樣可以實現此種控制仍然是高手級別。

不過ABBA重視商業超過音樂的印象仍然存在,經理斯蒂格·安德森愿意坦誠談論商業利益之后更是如此。“這對我們很不利。”奧瓦爾斯為帕爾姆寫書接受采訪時承認。

帕爾姆表示,樂隊在商業方面保持敏銳是為了創作服務,并不是反過來,也不是每次都很成功。ABBA一直面臨的挑戰是如何尋找法律途徑降低高昂的瑞典稅單,當時稅額幾乎能夠完全抹去高收入者的利潤。

為了避稅,樂隊和安德森創建了復雜的公司網絡,有時接受實體商品換版稅,特別是在東歐。曾經因為一筆失敗的石油換版稅交易,貿易公司Pol Oil成立了。

正如帕爾姆在書中所述,1980年1月該貿易公司在鹿特丹現貨市場以每桶40美元買入了55000噸原油,打算轉售獲利。但當時為伊朗動亂時期,油價偏高,油品質量也出現錯判,這筆交易最終失敗了,價格暴跌,支付大量存儲成本后最終以虧本價出售,最終損失了330萬英鎊(約為現在的1300萬英鎊)

面對這筆糟糕的交易,樂隊表現得非常低調,但后來比約恩承認損失“并不小”。

游戲名稱

在樂隊解散后的幾年里,ABBA的早期曲目包括《舞蹈皇后》(Dancing Queen)、《Voulez-Vouz》和《給我個機會》(Take A Chance on Me)等經典,并未立刻變成像后來一樣熱門的搖錢樹。本尼和比約恩對流行歌曲創作長期的影響也少被承認。ABBA從未真正“酷”過,現在則徹底不流行——“大大的不”,帕爾姆說。

不過在20世紀90年代初,樂隊在同性戀文化中相當知名以及1992年的《ABBA Gold》精選集,讓樂隊東山再起。據稱該張流行專輯在全球賣出至少3100萬張,今年7月更是成為英國音樂排行榜上首張連續1000周或19年霸榜的專輯。

1999年,舞臺音樂劇《媽媽咪呀》在440多個城市演出。ABBA官網稱,該演出接待觀眾已達6000萬。

后來《媽媽咪呀》于2008年改編成電影,票房達到6.09億美元,成為有史以來票房最高的音樂電影之一。10年后的《媽媽咪呀》續集,電影票房也相當不錯。

奧瓦爾斯、本尼·安德森和后來的林斯塔德都是原《媽媽咪呀》音樂劇的投資人;奧瓦爾斯也是斯德哥爾摩ABBA博物館(ABBA Museum)的投資者。帕爾姆說,除了最初的經典,音樂和電影一直是樂隊成員財富不斷增長的真正來源。

2011年5月31日,紐約市冬季花園劇院(Winter Garden Theatre),《媽媽咪呀!》第4000場百老匯演出的謝幕儀式上的克拉克·索雷爾、朱迪·麥克萊恩、約翰·多塞特、麗莎·布雷西亞、帕特里克·波爾和詹妮弗·佩里。圖片來源:Bruce Glikas—FilmMagic

沒有人知道樂隊到底多富有,但在2013年,帕爾姆估計奧瓦爾斯和本尼·安德森都是瑞典人里的“億萬富翁”,兩人的身家均為約1.17億美元;林斯塔德的身家估計約為1.75億英鎊(按照今天的匯率計算,約為2.42億美元);而據估計,組合里的福斯克格的資產最少,不到1億美元。隨著電影和音樂帝國擴張,現在各人的身家可能更高。

即便如此,從《媽媽咪呀》音樂劇到ABBA博物館,要嘗試新項目也需要勸服所有成員。他們曾拒絕過很多是巡演,2000年,四人拒絕了10億美元250場重聚巡演的提議。

帕爾姆說,有些經典樂隊會重聚巡演,給人的感覺是“好吧,錢這么多實在難以拒絕。ABBA樂隊則更像是,不,太麻煩了,我寧愿去養花。這是比較瑞典式的做法。”

感謝你們的音樂

2021年9月初,樂隊正式宣布了舉辦官方音樂會,以彌補對巡演的拒絕。根據20世紀70年代在瑞典表演的形象制作了老年版虛擬人物 (官方宣傳照中,每個人都穿著動作捕捉服裝。),樂隊將在倫敦東部一片較為新潮的地區為演出搭建定制場地,11月也將發行全新專輯。

“ABBA 之旅”(ABBA Voyage)項目受到了廣泛歡迎,項目中還包括采訪樂隊成員和世界各地的ABBA觀察家。賽德商學院的康諾克表示,這種方式非常前沿,也可能為其他希望延續經典的老樂隊提供指導。

“整體來看非常棒。”他說。“可以從各種角度欣賞,而且沒有風險。”

康諾克指出,項目也能夠擴展,如果在倫敦成功,很容易就可以在全球各地推廣。

2018年,剛開始樂隊對項目和發行新歌嗤之以鼻,但動機很清楚:70多歲找機會玩開心,回到錄音棚都可以,巡演就不必了。

樂隊發行流行歌曲之后的幾十年里,先前對其大火流行歌的評論已經從嘲弄變成了慶祝,有關樂隊成員商業頭腦的故事也從懷疑變成了尊重。

“如果納入商學院的話,ABBA發展史會變成知識產權彈性方面的案例,而正是知識產權支撐著21世紀媒體和技術領域幾乎各項發展。”康諾克說。

“ABBA的發展史讓其看上去就像音樂行業里的高盛集團(Goldman Sachs),也讓其看上去像是一只美國長期國債。”(財富中文網)

譯者:梁宇

審校:夏林

1980年3月,《High Fidelity》雜志曾經宣布,瑞典長期流行的超級組合實現了新里程碑:“ABBA:為沖刺《財富》美國500強做好準備”。

當然,這是個玩笑,當年該樂隊年并未出現在《財富》美國500強排行榜上。不過,四名成員組成的流行樂隊加上精明的商業經理斯蒂格·安德森,確實掌控著龐大的商業帝國。樂隊解散的兩年前,樂隊里的兩對夫妻勞燕分飛,成員旗下非傳統金融資產包括一家Monark功率自行車廠、一家租賃集團,還有一家瀕臨破產的石油貿易公司,后來該公司因為一筆現貨原油交易時機把握不準而虧損了300多萬英鎊。

在樂團的興衰過程中,類似的交易只是強化了ABBA經濟驅動流行音樂機器的形象,而當年的這種形象并非總是正面。

幾十年后,商業帝國也還在持續。由于《媽媽咪呀》(Mamma Mia)舞臺劇和電影持續多年獲得大筆收入,上周該樂隊宣布發行一張新專輯,還推出了虛擬的老年版形象。與樂隊活躍的年代相比,這次明顯少了憤世嫉俗的成分。

“我對這支樂隊的輝煌歷程充滿欽佩和嫉妒。”牛津大學賽德商學院(Oxford University's Sa?d Business School)的管理實踐研究員亞歷克斯·康諾克說道。這家瑞典超級樂隊如此知名的原因除了其流行音樂才能,還有敏銳的商業嗅覺。

我有一個夢想

1972年,ABBA推出了第一首瑞典熱門歌曲,歌名為《人們需要愛》(People Need Love)。兩年后,樂隊推出的《滑鐵盧》(Waterloo)在國際上實現突破,該歌曲在1974年的歐洲電視歌曲大賽(Eurovision Song Contest)上獲勝。

樂隊的四位成員比約恩·奧瓦爾斯、本尼·安德森、阿格妮莎·福斯克格和安妮-弗瑞德·林斯塔德,早在第一首歌曲問世時就已經是瑞典音樂界老手。安德森和奧瓦爾斯作曲,阿格妮莎和安妮-弗瑞德演唱。

他們跟經理的關系安排也相當精明,經理既是唱片制作人也是音樂發行人,不僅擁有樂隊權益,最終也持有品牌Polar Music。

瑞典流行組合ABBA于1974年在斯德哥爾摩拍攝的照片。

《亮光與暗影——ABBA的真實故事》(Bright Lights Dark Shadows—The Real Story of ABBA)一書作者卡爾·馬格納斯·帕爾姆表示,這一安排可以推動樂隊不斷前進,在當時并不尋常。

“當他們聯起手來,就不用擔心糟心的音樂交易,也不會行幼稚之舉。”他說。

由于種種安排,樂隊在財務和創意方面擁有一定程度的控制權,能夠在瑞典市場掌控歌曲創作、表演和制作,在其他市場都挑選最好的唱片公司發行,這在音樂行業同樣很罕見。帕爾姆指出,通過該方式,樂隊發展非常順利,也通過談判獲得了更有利的版稅分配。

巡演規劃也相當高效,樂隊不用忍受漫長疲憊的巡演,而是在觀眾最多的市場中挑選電視節目亮相。

“他們非常理性。”他說,“人們都認為搖滾歌星、流行歌星都是自由的精神,一心只想做音樂然后巡演,通常伴隨著毒品、酒精和粉絲。”

然而在20世紀70年代,人們開始懷疑樂隊。不僅有人批評ABBA音樂公式化、商業化,他們的營銷策略也遭到冷嘲熱諷。在《High Fidelity》發表三年前,《滾石》雜志(Rolling Stone)曾經過發表《商業之聲》(Sound of Business),關于樂隊的長篇專題。文中記者戴夫·馬奇指出,樂隊“有條不紊”地崛起“讓一些人懷疑樂隊是不是對營銷的興趣比音樂更大。”

泰勒·斯威夫特也曾經通過重新錄制早期專輯來重新獲得表演權,如今像這樣可以實現此種控制仍然是高手級別。

不過ABBA重視商業超過音樂的印象仍然存在,經理斯蒂格·安德森愿意坦誠談論商業利益之后更是如此。“這對我們很不利。”奧瓦爾斯為帕爾姆寫書接受采訪時承認。

帕爾姆表示,樂隊在商業方面保持敏銳是為了創作服務,并不是反過來,也不是每次都很成功。ABBA一直面臨的挑戰是如何尋找法律途徑降低高昂的瑞典稅單,當時稅額幾乎能夠完全抹去高收入者的利潤。

為了避稅,樂隊和安德森創建了復雜的公司網絡,有時接受實體商品換版稅,特別是在東歐。曾經因為一筆失敗的石油換版稅交易,貿易公司Pol Oil成立了。

正如帕爾姆在書中所述,1980年1月該貿易公司在鹿特丹現貨市場以每桶40美元買入了55000噸原油,打算轉售獲利。但當時為伊朗動亂時期,油價偏高,油品質量也出現錯判,這筆交易最終失敗了,價格暴跌,支付大量存儲成本后最終以虧本價出售,最終損失了330萬英鎊(約為現在的1300萬英鎊)

面對這筆糟糕的交易,樂隊表現得非常低調,但后來比約恩承認損失“并不小”。

游戲名稱

在樂隊解散后的幾年里,ABBA的早期曲目包括《舞蹈皇后》(Dancing Queen)、《Voulez-Vouz》和《給我個機會》(Take A Chance on Me)等經典,并未立刻變成像后來一樣熱門的搖錢樹。本尼和比約恩對流行歌曲創作長期的影響也少被承認。ABBA從未真正“酷”過,現在則徹底不流行——“大大的不”,帕爾姆說。

不過在20世紀90年代初,樂隊在同性戀文化中相當知名以及1992年的《ABBA Gold》精選集,讓樂隊東山再起。據稱該張流行專輯在全球賣出至少3100萬張,今年7月更是成為英國音樂排行榜上首張連續1000周或19年霸榜的專輯。

1999年,舞臺音樂劇《媽媽咪呀》在440多個城市演出。ABBA官網稱,該演出接待觀眾已達6000萬。

后來《媽媽咪呀》于2008年改編成電影,票房達到6.09億美元,成為有史以來票房最高的音樂電影之一。10年后的《媽媽咪呀》續集,電影票房也相當不錯。

奧瓦爾斯、本尼·安德森和后來的林斯塔德都是原《媽媽咪呀》音樂劇的投資人;奧瓦爾斯也是斯德哥爾摩ABBA博物館(ABBA Museum)的投資者。帕爾姆說,除了最初的經典,音樂和電影一直是樂隊成員財富不斷增長的真正來源。

2011年5月31日,紐約市冬季花園劇院(Winter Garden Theatre),《媽媽咪呀!》第4000場百老匯演出的謝幕儀式上的克拉克·索雷爾、朱迪·麥克萊恩、約翰·多塞特、麗莎·布雷西亞、帕特里克·波爾和詹妮弗·佩里。

沒有人知道樂隊到底多富有,但在2013年,帕爾姆估計奧瓦爾斯和本尼·安德森都是瑞典人里的“億萬富翁”,兩人的身家均為約1.17億美元;林斯塔德的身家估計約為1.75億英鎊(按照今天的匯率計算,約為2.42億美元);而據估計,組合里的福斯克格的資產最少,不到1億美元。隨著電影和音樂帝國擴張,現在各人的身家可能更高。

即便如此,從《媽媽咪呀》音樂劇到ABBA博物館,要嘗試新項目也需要勸服所有成員。他們曾拒絕過很多是巡演,2000年,四人拒絕了10億美元250場重聚巡演的提議。

帕爾姆說,有些經典樂隊會重聚巡演,給人的感覺是“好吧,錢這么多實在難以拒絕。ABBA樂隊則更像是,不,太麻煩了,我寧愿去養花。這是比較瑞典式的做法。”

感謝你們的音樂

2021年9月初,樂隊正式宣布了舉辦官方音樂會,以彌補對巡演的拒絕。根據20世紀70年代在瑞典表演的形象制作了老年版虛擬人物 (官方宣傳照中,每個人都穿著動作捕捉服裝。),樂隊將在倫敦東部一片較為新潮的地區為演出搭建定制場地,11月也將發行全新專輯。

“ABBA 之旅”(ABBA Voyage)項目受到了廣泛歡迎,項目中還包括采訪樂隊成員和世界各地的ABBA觀察家。賽德商學院的康諾克表示,這種方式非常前沿,也可能為其他希望延續經典的老樂隊提供指導。

“整體來看非常棒。”他說。“可以從各種角度欣賞,而且沒有風險。”

康諾克指出,項目也能夠擴展,如果在倫敦成功,很容易就可以在全球各地推廣。

2018年,剛開始樂隊對項目和發行新歌嗤之以鼻,但動機很清楚:70多歲找機會玩開心,回到錄音棚都可以,巡演就不必了。

樂隊發行流行歌曲之后的幾十年里,先前對其大火流行歌的評論已經從嘲弄變成了慶祝,有關樂隊成員商業頭腦的故事也從懷疑變成了尊重。

“如果納入商學院的話,ABBA發展史會變成知識產權彈性方面的案例,而正是知識產權支撐著21世紀媒體和技術領域幾乎各項發展。”康諾克說。

“ABBA的發展史讓其看上去就像音樂行業里的高盛集團(Goldman Sachs),也讓其看上去像是一只美國長期國債。”(財富中文網)

譯者:梁宇

審校:夏林

In March 1980, a now-defunct magazine called High Fidelity declared that one of Sweden's enduring supergroups had hit a new milestone: "ABBA: 'Ready for the Fortune 500'".

The headline was tongue-in-cheek—the band did not, in fact, appear on the Fortune 500 that year—but only just: the four-member pop group, along with their business-savvy manager, Stig Anderson, was indeed at the helm of a sprawling business empire. By that year—just two years before the band dissolved after the breakup of both couples in the group—their unconventional financial interests included a Monark bicycle factory, a leasing group, and even a doomed oil trading company, which would go on to lose more than 3 million pounds in a poorly-timed spot crude deal.

Throughout their rise and fall, such deals only added to the perception of ABBA as a financially-driven pop machine—an image that was not always positive at the time.

It's a perception that persists decades later, with the band's announcement last week of a new album and an upcoming concert series—featuring virtual, de-aged versions of themselves—following years of big-budget success with the Mamma Mia stage show and movies. But this time, in contrast to the band's active years, there is a notable lack of cynicism about their projects. In fact, the Swedish supergroup finds itself being celebrated both for their pop genius—and for their business acumen.

"I'm just full of admiration-slash-jealousy for the brilliance of it, actually," says Alex Connock, a fellow in management practice at Oxford University's Sa?d Business School.

I have a dream

ABBA garnered its first Swedish hit in 1972—a song called "People Need Love." Two years later, the band had their international break-out with the song Waterloo, which won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.

The four members—Bj?rn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha F?ltskog, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad—were already veterans of the Swedish music industry by the time their first song came out. Andersson and Ulvaeus had worked as songwriters and Agneta and Frida as singers. They also had a savvy relationship with their manager, who was both a record producer and a music publisher, and an ownership stake not just in the band but eventually in his label, Polar Music.

It was a dynamic that put the band on the front foot in a way that was unusual at the time, says Carl Magnus Palm, a Swedish ABBA expert and the author of Bright Lights Dark Shadows—The Real Story of ABBA.

"All the bad music business deals, all the na?vete, was behind them when they joined forces," he said.

That experience allowed them to have a level of both financial and creative control that's still rare in the music business. The band controlled songwriting, performance, and production, and they managed their careers centrally from Sweden; in each market, they picked the best record companies for distribution. Using this approach, they passed on the quick thrill of hefty advances, Palm notes, and negotiated for better royalty rights instead.

Their touring strategy, too, was efficiently planned: rather than indulging in long, exhausting tours, the band simply picked the TV show in each market with the largest audience, and made an appearance.

"They were very rational," he says. "We think of rock stars, of pop stars, as these kinds of free spirits, who only think about making music, and then touring, and drugs and booze and groupies."

In the 1970s, however, such efficiency was actively viewed with suspicion. Not only was ABBA's music often critically panned as formulaic and commercial, but their marketing strategy was treated with cynicism. Three years before the High Fidelity article, Rolling Stone put out a lengthy feature about the band titled the "Sound of Business", in which the journalist Dave March noted that the band's "methodical" rise led "some to suspect that the group is more interested in marketing than music."

Today, that level of control is more likely to be seen as masterful—recall Taylor Swift re-recording her earlier albums to recapture performance rights—but the impression that the band put business before music stuck, exacerbated by the willingness of manager Stig Anderson to talk freely about their business interests ("It wasn't good for us," Ulvaeus admitted in an interview for Palm's book.)

In fact, the band's business acumen was in service of the creative control, Palm says, rather than the other way around—and it wasn't always that successful, either. One of ABBA's persistent challenges was finding legal ways to lower their stratospheric Swedish tax bills, which at the time were so high they could totally eliminate profits for high earners. To get around them, the band and Anderson created complex networks of companies, and sometimes accepted bartered goods in exchange for royalties, especially in the Eastern bloc. One bartered oil deal, which fell through, resulted in the creation of Pol Oil, a trading company.

As Palm relates in his book, the trading company bought 55,000 tons of crude oil in January 1980 on the spot market in Rotterdam at $40/barrel, planning to resell it at a profit. But the deal went sideways: Pol bought it when prices were high due to unrest in Iran, Palm writes, and misjudged the quality. An initial deal fell through, the price slumped, and the barrels were eventually sold at a loss, after ringing up substantial storage costs. The deal lost £3.3 million, about £13 million ($18 million) in today's money.

The band played down the bad deal, but Bj?rn later admitted that the loss "wasn't peanuts."

The name of the game

In the years after the band's breakup, ABBA's back catalogue—full of such undeniable smashes as “Dancing Queen,” “Voulez-Vouz,” and “Take A Chance on Me”—wasn't immediately recognized as the money fountain it would turn out to be. Benny and Bj?rn's lasting influence on the pop songwriting cannon was also largely unacknowledged. Never exactly "cool", ABBA was now truly unfashionable—"with a capital U," says Palm.

But a resurgence started to gain steam in the early 1990s, in part due to the band's celebrated status in gay culture, and spurred on by the release of ABBA Gold in 1992. The greatest hits album is believed to have sold at least 31 million copies worldwide, and this July it became the first album to spend 1,000 consecutive weeks—or more than 19 years—on the U.K. music charts.

Then, in 1999, came the stage-musical Mamma Mia, which has now appeared in over 440 cities and been seen by 60 million people, according to the group's official website. That was followed by the Mamma Mia movie in 2008, and the Mamma Mia sequel 10 years later. The first film made $609 million at the box office, making it one of the highest-grossing musicals of all time; the second film was also a respectable box-office smash.

Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and later Lyngstad were all investors in the original Mamma Mia musical; Ulvaeus is also an investor in the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. Beyond their original hits, the musical and movies have been the real source of their expanding wealth, says Palm.

Though it's not clear exactly how wealthy the band members are as a result, Palm estimated in 2013 that both Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson were Swedish "kronor billionaires", or worth about $117 million each; Lyngstad was estimated to be worth about £175 million (at today's exchange rates, around $242 million); while F?ltskog is estimated to have the most modest fortune of the group, with under $100 million. It's possible, as the movies and music empire has expanded, that they're now worth much more.

Even still, the band's members have often had to be individually persuaded to take on new projects, from the Mamma Mia musical to the ABBA museum. Famously, they have also said no, in particular to touring: in 2000, they turned down a $1 billion offer to reunite for a 250-show tour.

With some legacy bands that do reunion tours, you get the impression that "okay, it's too much money to turn down," Palm says. "Whereas with ABBA, it’s more like, nah, can’t be bothered, I’d rather tend to my flower beds. It’s a very kind of Swedish approach."

Thank you for the music

In early September 2021, the band officially announced an elegant solution to their reticence to tour: an official concert, complete with 1970s era, de-aged, virtual figures based on their own performances back in Sweden. (The official promotion featured photos of them in outfits tagged for motion-capture.) The band will build a custom venue for the show, in a trendy bit of east London, and a brand new album will also be released in November.

The "ABBA Voyage" project, announced with interviews with the band members and ABBA watchers worldwide, was greeted with near-universal delight. The approach, which is technologically cutting edge, could also be a pilot project for other aging bands looking to continue their legacy, says Connock, of Sa?d Business School.

"It’s just brilliant, on a whole number levels," he says. "It gives you all the scale of the tour, without any of the risks."

It's also scaleable, he points out—if it works in London, it could easily be rolled out around the world.

The band itself, which initially teased the concept and the new songs in 2018, has been clear about their motives: a chance to have fun, go back to the studio, and perform—without going on tour in their 70s.

And in the decades since the band released its early pop hits, criticism of its absurdly catchy songs have gone from mocking to celebratory, while tales of the members' business acumen have gone from suspicion, to, well, respect.

"The ABBA catalogue is kind of a case study, were we in business school, of the resilience of IP—which underpins almost all the developments we've seen in media and tech in the 21st century," Connock says.

"The ABBA catalogue is almost like the Goldman Sachs of the music industry, isn't it? It's almost like a longterm US government bond."

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