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SPOTIFY

Spotify backtracks on ‘harmful or hateful conduct’ policy

Spotify on Friday backtracked on a policy that reduced exposure for artists accused of personal misconduct, after criticism that the leading streaming platform was hurting musicians over vague criteria.

Spotify backtracks on 'harmful or hateful conduct' policy
The singer and record producer R. Kelly is one of the artists affected by the policy. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP
Spotify said in May that it would remove from its playlists — a popular way for listeners to discover artists and replay songs — music from artists known for “harmful or hateful” behaviour, although the tracks would still be 
available.
   
The move followed a campaign by the Time's Up movement for gender equality for the music industry to drop R. Kelly, the R&B star who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with young women and underage girls.
   
Kelly was among artists booted from playlists under the policy as well as XXXTentacion, a rapper involved in numerous violent incidents including allegedly beating his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
   
But following criticism, Spotify said its language was “vague and left too many elements open to interpretation,” including whether unproven allegations or youthful transgressions would affect artists' ability to enter playlists.
   
“That's not what Spotify is about. We don't aim to play judge and jury,” the Swedish company, which has 174 million users globally, said in a blog post. 
 
“Our playlist editors are deeply rooted in their respective cultures, and their decisions focus on what music will positively resonate with their listeners,” it said.
   
Spotify said it was “moving away” from the policy. 
   
But it said it would keep in place a related ban on music that incites hatred or violence, a rule that banned entirely songs by white supremacist acts.
   
Critics of Spotify's original policy had included the label of Kendrick Lamar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper who was the service's fourth most-streamed artist last year.
   
“Whoa. Are they censoring the music? That's dangerous,” Punch, co-president of Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment, wrote on Twitter amid reports that the rapper was threatening to pull his music from Spotify.
   
Spotify did not immediately comment on whether it would restore controversial artists to playlists.
   
Online critics also questioned whether Spotify was being selective in targeting R. Kelly and XXXTentacion, pointing out that allegations of personal misconduct are hardly novel in the music industry.

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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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