×

Daniel Ek is Collecting Data That Won’t Let Him Fail

Spotify's purchase of music intelligence firm Echo Nest is company's latest lay to develop a sure thing

It’s about the data and the footprint.

In other words, the more information you have, the fewer mistakes you make, and if you’re America-centric, you’re gonna get your butt kicked by those who see the entire world.

The music business did not see the technologists coming, and so they’re still having their lunch eaten by people who see a future they cannot.

Like Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek. I’m not saying Ek is a ripoff artist hoodwinking the labels; he’s got to play fair, because he needs their licenses. But living in Sweden, where the Internet connection is screaming, and growing up in the land of tech, he just sees things a bit differently.

Ek told me Amazon would be profitable if it didn’t spend $3 billion in China and $2 billion
on entertainment rights. He gave me that perspective when I asked him about the profitability of Spotify.

If Amazon were interested in satiating its critics, it could stop spending on tomorrow and deliver the numbers everybody wants today, but it might not triumph in the future — and it’s all about triumphing in the future.

Spotify is in so many countries around the world that you’re probably unaware some of them exist. It’s not in Japan, where people subscribe to rental kiosks, wherein they bring the CD home, rip it, and return it for another. But there’s no music on YouTube in Germany, so Spotify subscriptions are huge. And in Scandinavia, more than 10% of the population is paying for the service.

So Spotify wants to be in Japan — and China, and India. But it already has most of the major territories covered, so profitability is imminent. Then again, there’s constant reinvestment in the product to make sure it doesn’t hiccup — to make sure it delivers what you want. People rarely tolerate bugs anymore. They expect something to work, right away and forever.

Spotify never launches a product that fails, because it’s tested it long before it launches. Up to 150,000 users might be employing new features without knowing it. So by the time Spotify rolls the feature throughout the world, the company knows it’s going to gain acceptance; it knows it’s going to work. Kind of like the free mobile access it launched in December, when it had more sign-ups in one month than it did in the previous 11.

While the record labels are still dependent upon CDs, Spotify is multiple steps ahead.

Spotify’s vision is to have your music follow you everywhere, so it can be called up with the touch of a button. It’s part of Apple’s CarPlay. And Android’s automobile play, too. Spotify is platform agnostic. And over the course of this year, its chips will be embedded in many entertainment devices, so that your boom box or Sonos speaker will know what you were listening to last, and will play it on command from your phone, streaming directly from the Internet, or wherever you are.

Ek is building a service so good you’ll want to pay for it and not abandon it. That’s why it purchased music data company the Echo Nest on March 6, for a reported $100 million. It’s about predicting what people want to listen to. And Echo Nest, founded at the MIT Media Lab in Boston, does just that.

So techies have taken over the world. That’s the story of this decade. The aughts were all about the freak-out, the disruption, the casting aside of the baby boomers who believed it was about going to lunch as opposed to accumulating knowledge.

But now it’s all about tools, and he who has the best wins.

So if you want to know what’s going on, a meal with expensive wine tastes good, but you’re probably gonna learn a lot more by lunching with the techie in the T-shirt.

More Music

  • See Taylor Swift Unveil Feline Moves

    See Taylor Swift Unveil Feline Moves for First Time in 'Cats' Behind-the-Scenes Teaser

    Taylor Swift fans finally get to see some of the results of all those years spent studying her roommates Meredith and Olivia — and also, not incidentally, some time with a choreographer — in a new behind-the-scenes teaser for the movie “Cats.” The three-and-a-half-minute featurette has footage of Swift striking crouching feline moves as well [...]

  • New York's Brooklyn Bowl Celebrates 10

    New York's Brooklyn Bowl Celebrates 10 Years With Plans to Expand

    In the middle of a conversation about the tenth anniversary of Brooklyn Bowl — the live-music-and-bowling venue that opened a second location in Las Vegas in 2014 — owner Peter Shapiro casually mentions that he’s planning on opening a third location in the U.S. within the next 12 months. He declines to provide any more [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Unites Recorded Music and Publishing Under One Company

    Sony has created Sony Music Group, an umbrella for both its recorded-music operation — Sony Music Entertainment — and its publishing company — Sony/ATV — under SME chief Rob Stringer, according to an internal document obtained by Variety. The move will take effect on Aug. 1. A source close to the situation tells Variety that [...]

  • Spotify-Disney

    Spotify Pacts With Disney to Launch Hub With Music From Movies, TV Shows

    Fans of Disney movies and TV shows can now dive into a dedicated music hub on Spotify, featuring seven playlist sections with top hits from Disney animated favorites and music from Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars films. Disney’s No. 1 most-streamed song on Spotify is “Let It Go” from the “Frozen” soundtrack, followed by “Moana”’s [...]

  • Rapper Meek Mill arrives at a

    Meek Mill Moves Closer to New Trial — With Unlikely Support from the Philadelphia D.A.

    Before premiering his upcoming, Jay Z-produced Amazon series, “Free Meek,” on August 9, Philadelphia-based rapper Meek Mill had a far greater show to deal with. And one with twice the drama and character arcs. On Tuesday, Mill and his lawyers stood before three Pennsylvania Superior Court judges in a Philadelphia courtroom to ask that his [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    Woman Featured in Infamous R. Kelly Sex Tape Is Cooperating With Authorities

    The female minor featured with R. Kelly in the videotape at the center of his previous child-pornography charges, who declined to testify against him in 2008, is cooperating with federal investigators on new charges, her lawyer, Christopher L. Brown, told the New York Times. The tape, which was shown at Kelly’s 2008 child-pornography trial, allegedly [...]

  • Ken Ehrlich Jane Ortner Education Award,

    Grammy Awards Producer Shuffle: Ben Winston to Take Over From Ken Ehrlich in 2021

    As Variety reported in December, Ben Winston will take the reins of the Grammy Awards as executive producer in 2021 after longtime telecast leader Ken Ehrlich completes his 40th ceremony next year. Winston has become a prolific producer for CBS and other outlets since he moved to the U.S. nearly five years ago to launch [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content