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SPOTIFY

‘Spotify are the new pirates’: Swedish artist

Swedish musician Magnus Uggla has withdrawn his music from streaming music service Spotify claiming his "songs are being given away".

'Spotify are the new pirates': Swedish artist

“I’d rather be raped by The Pirate Bay than shafted by Hasse Breitholtz and Sony Music,” Uggla, who is one of Sweden’s most prolific artists, wrote on his blog on Wednesday.

Magnus Uggla emphasizes that he likes the idea of Spotify, calling it “an incredible internet service”. But he goes on to question the business model that allows users access to “everything” free of charge (and ad-financed) or for a monthly fee of only 99 kronor ($14).

“How can this be possible? Once again if something seems too good to be true, then it always is,” Uggla writes, claiming that he earned as much from Spotify in the first half of 2009 than the average street busker would earn in a day.

Uggla directs his ire at Sony Music CEO Hasse Breitholtz whom he says has persuaded him of the importance of being a part of Spotify and who “waxes lyrical” over its potential to revolutionize revenue sharing within the music industry.

“I believe in Spotify’s model but agree with Magnus Uggla that revenues need to be raised across the board,” Breitholtz told The Local on Thursday.

“If artists had in the beginning received higher payments then there would be no Spotify and instead only illegal alternatives. A little money is better than no money,” he said.

In response to news that Sony Music had paid 30,000 kronor to acquire six percent of Spotify, a company that despite its youth is already valued at close to two billion, Uggla has now decided to withdraw his catalogue of music.

“Sony Music, which is one of those that have sued the pants off The Pirate Bay, are now acting in exactly the same way as The Pirate Bay – only they are trying to hush it up,” Uggla explains.

Hasse Breitholtz says that the share purchase should be seen more as a means to influence Spotify’s development than as a capital investment.

“It is a way for us to ensure that it is kept legal, to have some control. It is is not as if we could sell the shares for 6 percent of the 1.8 billion kronor that I read somewhere that Spotify is estimated to be worth,” Breitholtz said.

Magnus Uggla is not the first artist to resist the overtures of the Sweden-based Spotify. US artist Bob Dylan is also numbered among the doubters who have kept their body of work away from the service.

“I plan to remove all my music from Spotify while waiting for an honourable internet service,” Magnus Uggla concluded in his blog post.

Hasse Breitholtz is concerned that if more artists were to follow Uggla’s lead then the industry would once again be in upheaval.

“There would be turmoil. We would be back at The Pirate Bay. I hope that Spotify paves the way for a range of alternative services, but it needs to be given a chance to get established.”

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SPORT

Is football next for Spotify’s billionaire CEO? 

The owner of Spotify, Daniel Ek, has offered to buy Premier League club Arsenal amid supporter backlash against their unpopular American owner, Stan Kroenke.

Arsenal play to an empty stadium
Spotify's owner has set his sights on Arsenal. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP

Spotify’s billionaire CEO, Daniel Ek, who revolutionised on-demand music listening for millions of people now hopes to bring his business acumen to “the beautiful game”.

The 38-year-old, known for his no-nonsense attitude, has offered to buy Premier League club Arsenal amid supporter backlash against unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke.

Ek co-founded Spotify with Martin Lorentzon in 2006, and the company which made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 now has a market capitalisation of $56 billion.

The Swedish billionaire 

Bald, bearded and usually seen in sneakers, T-shirt and a blazer, Ek is known for his reserved style and pragmatism. He’s a shy problem-solver with a creative streak who takes long walks to think things through and prizes collective teamwork over the individual.

Ek got into computer programming as a young child, and was a dollar millionaire by the age of 23 when he sold his online advertising company, Advertigo, in 2006 for a reported $1.25 million.

“But he’s more of a businessman than a tech nerd,” Sven Carlsson, co-author of “The Spotify Play”, told AFP, painting him as a visionary.

“He’s always thinking six months ahead. He’s not into the details. He’s known for having ambitious, lofty goals, with no understanding for how unrealistic they are,” he said.

“He thinks big, and he has patience” to see those projects through to fruition.

Ek was raised in Stockholm’s working-class suburb of Rågsved. His father left the family when Daniel was young.

“He’s always had something to prove… Being left by his dad was a formative experience,” Carlsson said.

Pelle Snickars, co-author of “The Swedish Unicorn: the Story About Spotify”, describes Ek as “quite Swedish in terms of values”.

“We don’t see him on magazine covers alongside celebrities, he’s not hierarchical and does not hesitate to showcase his collaborators,” Snickars told AFP.

With around 9 percent of Spotify’s capital and 37 percent of voting rights, Forbes put Ek’s fortune at an estimated $4.8 billion in April 2021.

“Innovations are never entirely new”

In 2006, Ek and Lorentzon came up with the idea of creating a platform to distribute music online legally, a practice that was dominated by illegal file sharing sites at the time.

The duo experimented with sharing MP3 music files between the hard drives on their computers. In October 2008 Spotify was finally ready to go live after Ek pleaded with music labels to open their catalogues.

“Innovations are never entirely new,” Ek told the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm during a 2013 visit.

“The success comes from combining things that already exist and trying to solve a problem that one is really involved in,” he added.

Ek reportedly dropped out of the university’s engineering programme to pursue an IT career – though his enrolment at the school has never been proven, Carlsson noted.

He said Ek’s former colleagues nicknamed him “Spice.”

“They thought he always spiced up his stories a little to make them more interesting,” Carlsson said, adding that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Storytelling is something Spotify and Daniel Ek have always been good at.”

Football next? 

Ek’s perseverance may have led to the remarkable rise of the start-up, but artists have over the years complained of it paying them too little and cannibalising sales from their albums.

Ek has repeatedly argued that streaming is a better alternative for artists and that “piracy doesn’t pay (them) a penny – nothing, zilch, zero.”

Snickars and co-author Rasmus Fleischer dispute the idea that Spotify was founded to end piracy and force consumers to pay for music.

They claim that neither Ek nor Lorentzon “had any experience with working professionally with music”, but they had a common background from digital advertising.

“They weren’t particularly interested in music…they could have worked on skin products instead,” Snickars told AFP.

Now, Ek is ready to dive into the football arena.

“As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE [Kroenke Sports Enterprises] would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring,” Ek wrote on Twitter on April 23.

Kroenke has however insisted Arsenal is not for sale, despite growing supporter unrest at the American billionaire’s ownership of the club, whose last Premier League title came in 2003/04.

Article by AFP’s Pia Ohlin.

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