The Local’s Thanh Dinh catches up with Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, the Sweden-based music streaming service that is making friends with everyone from the armchair music fan to Bono.
Daniel Ek is a difficult man to track down. The co-founder and CEO of Spotify is busy travelling around the US and UK on business, though he is keeping schtum about who he is meeting. [U2 perhaps? It has just been announced that the band are to unveil their new album on Spotify this week].
Founded in 2006, Spotify is quickly gaining a legion of loyal fans and it is easy to understand why. The music-streaming program gives users instant access to a huge catalogue of music from all over the world. Free of charge. Music connoisseurs can listen to Chilean pop rock group Kudai one moment, Cantonese sensation Andy Lau the next, and a quick hop around the world later, they could be sampling the delightful voice of Turkish singer Emel Sayin.
Unlike the majority of peer-to-peer music sharing, Spotify’s beauty lies in the fact that it works with music companies and rights holders so that its operations are wholly legitimate. This explains why Spotify has been welcomed into the fold with open arms by both producers and consumers of music alike. Just this past Wednesday saw Daniel EK attending the Brit Awards in London, mingling with the crème de la crème of the music industry. This would never have been the case for the likes of Napster or Pirate Bay.
So it was with great satisfaction that Daniel Ek, very much the man of the moment, took some time out to answer our questions.
You are often described as a serial entrepreneur, are there any other things you are also guilty of?
Right now, with all the travelling I’m doing, not getting enough sleep.
Spotify is a brilliant idea but let's be honest. Have there been any ideas that you've had that didn't work out?
Plenty, but luckily none which are business-related.
Who has most inspired you?
I’d have to say French electro kings Daft Punk. I still get goose bumps when I hear Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
Go on, give us a peek into your music collection, who are you listening to right now?
There are some fantastic artists coming through such as M.I.A., TV On The Radio, The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes and The View. Bruce Springsteen’s latest is awesome and I’ve just started listening to Lily Allen’s new album, which just hit Spotify.
Spotify was yours and Martin Lorentzon’s brainchild, did it come about quickly from a chat you both had or was the idea a long process development?
It’s something we’d been thinking about for a while. One thing that became obvious to us post P2P was the fact that people consumed more music than ever from a bigger diversity of artists. The influences in terms of what they were listening to were coming more from friends than from radio stations. They were consuming music like crazy but weren’t necessarily paying for that music. The underlying demand for music was bigger than ever. [The reason] we set up Spotify was to cater for that demand but to also, at the same time, create a functioning revenue stream.
What do you make of the success so far?
We love the fact that so many people have taken Spotify to heart and are enjoying the service. Our ultimate aim is to provide the world’s biggest catalogue of music that’s quick, simple and fun to use.
What has been Spotify's biggest challenge since start-up?
Well obviously signing the various record deals was a huge step for us. We want to be the alternative to music piracy
and to have the support of the record labels, both the majors and independents, to allow us to realise that aim.
Since then, probably dealing with the surge in users has been one of our biggest challenges, as well as adding on average 10,000 tracks a day to the Spotify catalogue. Putting all the world’s music in one place is a big job.
Who do you see as your biggest competition?
Depending on who you speak to, we will be compared to different services. In the UK, we get compared to Last.fm; in France a lot of people compare us to Deezer, while in the US a lot of people see us as similar to Rhapsody or Napster. I honestly believe that we don’t have a main competitor on that level as no one is currently offering what we are offering in terms of an ad-supported model and a subscription model as one.
What has been the best decision you have made for the company?
Hiring some of the best people in the business. Everyone’s extremely passionate about what we’re trying to achieve here and that passion is evident in everything we do, from adding as much music as we can every day, to keeping the service running smoothly, to keeping users abreast of all the latest news on our blog and Twitter.
So with all the techies behind Spotify, are your Christmas parties a fun affair?
We’re unbelievably lucky at Spotify to have a hugely talented mix of people on board. It’s fair to say our techies give the sales & marketing team a very good run for their money in the partying stakes.
What have you got planned for 2009?
A whole bunch of stuff. We’ve got some unbelievably cool exclusive content available for our users coming up over the next few months, plus we’re also going to provide our Spotify Premium subscribers with some special extra services. Watch this space.