Spotify CEO Daniel Ek: ‘No record label has a problem with us’

Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek addresses a press conference in New York, December 11, 2013.
Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek addresses a press conference in New York, December 11, 2013.
Credit: Getty Images

In the past you had to pay for music or download it illegally. Not any more since the advent of online music streaming.

Since 2008, Spotify has allowed users to stream music to their phones and computers for free. Great news for music fans, but detractors see Spotify as a threat to artists’ livelihood; Radiohead’s Thom Yorke recently called it “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.”

But free content is key to the music industry’s survival, Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek tells Metro.

Metro: How does your mission today differ from when you launched Spotify?

Ek: It’s the same. We started the company because we saw that people were listening to more music than ever before, but at the same time, the music industry was going down. Why was it imploding? Because of piracy. So how do you beat piracy? People had tried legislation, suing individual users. But the only solution that would work in the long term was creating a better product than piracy. So, when [co-founder Martin Lorentzon and I] started, our mission was to create such a product, because we believe that by doing so, we can get music in the hands of every single person in the world, and at the same time, it will make the music industry what it used to be and more.

Record labels are still not big fans of Spotify. Do you have sympathy for them?

I don’t think there’s a single record label that has a problem with us. They’ve worked with us for four-five years now, and I’m sure they wouldn’t partner with us if they didn’t like what we do. Right now we’re their second-largest revenue generator after iTunes. What you’re probably referring to is artists having controversies over what they perceive as a loss of income because people listen to them on services like Spotify. My answer to that is that we’re in the early days of streaming. We haven’t figured out a perfect model yet, but things will change. In Sweden we had this exact debate a few years ago. It’s died down now, because as Spotify grew – we now account for 70 percent of all record revenues in the country – the Swedish music industry has been growing. That means that the record labels are paying out more money to the artists.

YouTube content boss Robert Kyncl’s vision of his site is a talent factory for ordinary people. Do you want Spotify to go in the same direction?

We don’t want to become creators of music. Record labels are great partners, and by the way, artists can also upload music to Spotify on their own. What we’re focusing on is getting more music uploaded so that more people can enjoy it.

One of your staff members put an unknown singer named Lorde on Spotify’s playlist, turning her an instant star. Do you want to formalize this process of Spotify as a kingmaker?

Yes, we want to help artists, but we don’t want to be kingmakers. What we’re about is democratizing the music industry so that your friends are your kingmakers.

Isn’t creativity, and as a result music-making, in danger of dying out if we’re just used to downloading and not making it ourselves?

I disagree. The great thing from the past decade is that you no longer have to make expensive records to get your ideas out there. I do agree with you, though, that people should spend more time thinking about new ideas. But what the internet does is democratizing the music industry so that everyone can share their ideas.

How, exactly?

Just an analogy: I have a friend who I got to know about 10 years ago. He has very big feet and has always had trouble finding shoes. So, several years ago he said to himself, “Maybe I should produce my own shoes”, and he did. People told him it was silly because, they said, people don’t have these sized feet. But he put it online, and now it’s a really big business. It turns out there were all these people around the world who also have really big feet. The great thing about the internet is that, whether you have a good or a bad idea, it doesn’t matter, because you can reach the entire world population. There’s a market for everything. Take country music in Sweden, for example. Catering to such a small market would have been impossible 30 years ago. Now you can do that and reach a global audience as well.

But where will the money come from? At the end of the day, all these users just want things for free…

I think customers will pay for quality. People are willing to pay more for an Apple product because they perceive it as being higher quality. And look at news media. You can get news for free, but even so I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal because they provide depth and analysis that I think it’s worth paying for. And I subscribe to magazines, too, because I value the fact that there are people who spend hours thinking about what news really means. I think we’ll see lots of different business models.

When you go home at night, do you listen to music or do you say to yourself, “I can’t hear another note, I just want to read the Wall Street Journal?”

I listen to music all the time. When I was four, I started playing the guitar, and when I was five, I was handed a computer. These are things I’ve lived with my entire life. I love music, and that’s the reason I started Spotify. I make playlists for my daughter when I’m with her, and dinner playlists when I’m making dinner.

And do you still play the guitar?

Of course I do! I don’t have a band anymore, but I play a lot with friends.

 

Daniel Ek shares his playlist with Metro below.

DanielEkplaylist



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…

Local

G train running again after five weeks of…

G train service between Brooklyn and Queens returned as planned on Tuesday after several stops were closed for five weeks. Stating on July 25, crews…

Local

Islamic state issues video of beheading of U.S.…

The Islamic State militant group released a video purporting to show the beheading of U.S. hostage Steven Sotloff, the SITE monitoring service reported on Tuesday.

Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Arts

PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…

Music

Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.

Music

Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…

Gossip

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth apparently love each…

Miley Cyrus may have broken off her engagement to Liam Hemsworth almost a year ago, but that doesn't mean she doesn't still have feelings for…

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and Giants climb

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

Wellbeing

Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…

Wellbeing

Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…