×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on New Content Policy: ‘We Rolled This Out Wrong’

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted his company fumbled the deployment of a new content policy that sparked considerable controversy within the music industry.

Spotify reportedly rethought its controversial decision to ban certain artists from playlists based on their “hateful conduct” and moved to reinstate rapper XXXTentacion, but not another artist, R. Kelly. The initial announcement met with immediate backlash.

“We rolled this out wrong and could have done a much better job,” said Ek on Wednesday night on stage at the Code Conference in a keynote Q&A.

Ek, who took personal responsibility for the botched rollout, deemed the policy too ambiguous and open to interpretation. But asked by Variety whether the policy was no longer in effect, he made it clear it was still up on the company’s website, though subject to future iterations.

He also made clear that Spotify never had any intention of targeting any one particular artist. “The whole goal with this was to make sure that we didn’t have hate speech,” said Ek. “It was never about punishing one individual artist or even naming one individual artist.”

While there have been reports that the decision was so controversial internally at Spotify that global head of creator services Troy Carter nearly exited, Ek gave no hint of dissension within the ranks. “It was a debate we had internally at the company,” he said. “It’s something we keep on discussing.”

Spotify lost $49 million in the first quarter of 2018 as the company toils under the overhang of escalating royalty payouts to record labels. But Ek pointed to the positive cash flow he’s maintained in recent quarters as the primary metric to which he’s focused. “As long as that’s the case we don’t have to go the markets and ask them to keep funding the company,” he said.

Ek also shed light on Spotify’s video programming strategy, which has had a few false starts in recent years outside of some success with video-filled playlists like Rap Caviar. While he made clear he will always see Spotify as an audio-first platform, he sees a growing place for video content in his plans. “I do think over time video will be a more important part of our platform than what it is today,” he said.

As for Spotify’s early struggles with video, he acknowledged, “In video, we went way too fast and way too early.” But he also said that with little regret, citing the company’s habit of charging aggressively into a space and then dialing it back in future iterations.

Returning to the centrality of growing Spotify’s audio audience, Ek compared the relative size of the global video market–$1 trillion–to the $100 billion he estimated the music and radio industries comprise together. “Are your eyes worth 10 times more than your ears? I don’t think so. That’s what the market is right now.”

Spotify is facing increasing competition from Pandora, which announced a new $15 family plan earlier this week, and YouTube, which recently relaunched its own streaming music offering.  Last month, Apple Music disclosed more than 50 million users via paid subscriptions and free trials.

The Spotify IPO valued the company at $26 billion in April via a rarely-used process called a direct listing that comes without underwriters. Ek opened up to interviewers Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka of Recode about his rationale for going to market in that manner, including eliminating a double standard that often attends traditional IPOs: “What happens is investors get to sell early on and the employees do not. I wanted everyone to have the same opportunity to sell and buy.”

On its first earnings report, Spotify disclosed 75 million paying subscribers, and revenue of €1.139 billion (around $1.36 billion). The company had 170 million monthly active users in March. The company forecasts to have 92-96 million paying subscribers by the end of the year, as well as 198-208 million monthly active users.

More Digital

  • T-mobile - Netflix - John Legere

    T-Mobile Passes Netflix Price Hike Through to Subscribers

    T-Mobile is getting ready to raise prices for subscribers who have taken advantage of its “Netflix On Us” promotion: The mobile carrier will begin charging existing customers who have participated in the promotion an additional $2 per month to account for Netflix’s recent price increase. Consumers will see their bill go up starting on 6/2. [...]

  • Oona King

    Snap Hires Google Exec Oona King as First VP of Diversity and Inclusion

    Snap continues to fill out the ranks of its revamped leadership team: The Snapchat parent tapped Oona King, most recently Google’s director of diversity strategy and a former member of British Parliament with the Labour Party, as its first VP of diversity and inclusion. King, who starts at Snap on June 11, is also the [...]

  • Chrissy Teigen

    Chrissy Teigen to Rule Over Small-Claims 'Chrissy's Court' in Show for Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi

    Chrissy Teigen is going full-on “Judge Judy” in a reality show ordered by Quibi, the mobile-video subscription start-up venture founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg. In each episode of “Chrissy’s Court,” the model-influencer will reign as the “judge” over one small-claims case. Like the reality TV shows it’s patterned after, the plaintiffs, defendants, and disputes are real [...]

  • IGTV-Landscape

    Instagram's IGTV Adds Support for Horizontal Videos — but Still No Monetization

    Instagram is still searching to find the right recipe for IGTV, the long-form video service it debuted nearly a year ago. In the hopes of encouraging usage of IGTV, Instagram is breaking the original design that allowed only vertical video– to now support horizontally oriented videos as well. It’s a change that bows to the [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Took Down 2.2 Billion Fake Accounts in Q1

    Facebook saw a huge jump of bots trying to create fake accounts during the first quarter, with the company revealing Thursday that it took down 2.19 billion such accounts over the first three months of this year. “We’ve seen a steep increase in the creation of abusive, fake accounts on Facebook in the last six [...]

  • Netflix Unveils Lonely Island Musical Tribute

    Netflix Unveils Lonely Island Musical Tribute to Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire

    The Lonely Island comedy troupe has dropped a half-hour Netflix special featuring a musical tribute to baseball greats Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. “The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience” features Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer as the former Oakland Athletics teammates who became known as “the Bash Brothers” for their prowess at [...]

  • Rotten Tomatoes

    Rotten Tomatoes Revamps Movie Audience Scores to Focus on Verified Ticket Buyers

    Rotten Tomatoes is dramatically changing its Audience Score methodology for movies: The site’s standard user rating will now reflect only moviegoers who can prove they’ve bought a ticket to see it in a theater. It’s another troll-fighting move by Rotten Tomatoes, designed to curb coordinated “review bombs” aimed at pushing down the Audience Score for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content