“We bet our personal fortunes, and sometimes we bet the entire company,” says Daniel Ek. “We led with our conviction rather than rational, because rational said it was impossible.”
What kind of fucked up world do we live in where technology has more rebels following their muse and being innovative than music and the arts? Please read this story via Forbes highlighting the route Spotify creator Daniel Ek took in creating the company. It’s a story of talent (his grandparents were accomplished musicians and stepfather worked in IT; thus, his passion for both music & technology); sacrifice; hard work (he even lost his girlfriend of 2 years because of his non-stop traveling and hectic work schedule); fearlessness; and a willingness to take risks (spending millions on building Spotify while making ZERO profits for a few years).
Remember the days when our artists were the ones who epitomized the aforementioned traits and were the true leaders in society not beholden to political BS and having a true, uncensored, trusted perspective? The days when Rock n’ Roll had parents scared for their lives…when a group of young men out of Compton shook the nation to its core with its raw lyrics and anti-authority, anti-establishment stance to the point they were on the FBI’s watch list? Shit, I don’t blame you if you can’t recall an artist of late who’s done this. Recording artists are busier focused on selling out to corporate behemoths or becoming a spectacle (e.g., Lady Gaga) than rattling society.
Don’t believe me? Let’s make a little list here of some of the biggest names in music: Drake, Rihanna, Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, Adele, Lil Wayne, LMFAO. Now let’s make a list of the biggest names in Tech/Social Media: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, and now Daniel Ek. Yeah, the competition isn’t even close! You’d be hard pressed to legitimately argue that any of the aforementioned artists (aside from Adele) is anywhere close as creative or innovative as the latter tech wizards. Yeah, yeah, yeah…so, you’re saying I’m comparing apples n’ oranges. Tech vs. Music. Two completely different realms. That’s complete BS. Innovation, creativity, and risk taking exist in any and all fields. While our biggest artists are busy ass kissing and more concerned with their bank accounts, the tech world is churning out the true rock stars that are leading and creating the future.
Ek, with the help of industry lawyer Fred Davis, initially tried to get global music rights and was quickly turned down. So he aimed for European licenses, which he figured would take three months—it took two years. Ek and his team hounded label execs, pitching them that their free, ad-based model would eventually lead to more sales. No one bit. “They’d say, ‘Yeah, this sounds really interesting’ or ‘Send me over some stats,’ which really means ‘There’s no way in hell we’re going to do this,’” Ek says and laughs. “But I was 23 at the time, and I thought, Wow, this is great, we’re going to get this done.”
It’s a damn shame the music industry still lags so far behind a decade after Napster proved that technology was something that should be embraced rather than feared and fought. Two years to license this? Are you fucking kidding me!? SMFH. Labels still couldn’t see that subscription based, ad supported models were the future? It’s pretty sad how far behind labels are with this. Neither Napster nor iTunes could teach them their lesson.
I remember vividly when I took a Music Media Lab class back in the Spring of 2008 at my alma mater, the University of Southern California (USC). Our client was Universal Music Group (UMG). One of our proposals was actually a program akin to Spotify using a cable-based subscription where folks would pay a monthly fee to get unlimited but legal access to music. We surveyed our campus. The majority of students were in favor of such a program because it would mean they didn’t have to download music and risk getting viruses while also getting much music at a reasonable price. When we presented the ideas, some of the executives simply scoffed at this notion. Fast forward to 2011 when the U.S. finally allows Spotify here. And, this only occurred with much resistance too! Even after it had shown to be profitable in Sweden, which is known as a hotbed for piracy. Yet another example of how the music industry has lost touch of the times and continues to be a follower, not the leader as in past times.