Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Answers Your Questions In Online Q&A Session

Spotify’s founder and CEO Daniel Ek took part in an online Q&A session yesterday where users from around the globe could ask about the most popular music streaming service in the world.

Users worldwide got to take part and ask questions to Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO and founder, on the community-driven Q&A site Quora. Questions ranged from how the successful startup creator spends his day to how Spotify are facing the rise and fall of various competitor music streaming services.

One of the questions asked how to get discovered on Spotify when you’re fresh on the scene, something that is important to a lot of RouteNote artists. Here’s what he had to say:

The easiest way today is to convince people to put it in their playlists and share it if they like it. Both of those channels are massive and they can lead to to more promotion through our viral chart, through Discover Weekly, to being featured as a new release, etc. Spotify is a democratic system in the sense that if people really like it, and the “vital signs” as we call them are good, then the system will figure it out and spread the word.


Here are some of the other highlights in Daniel Ek’s Q&A:

What are some early decisions that were key to Spotify’s success?

We chose a narrow market to begin with that we knew how to serve well – Sweden. Had we started with the US there’s no way we would still be around. The US market just wasn’t ready.

Second, we spent an insane amount of time focusing on latency, when no one cared, because we were hell bent on making it feel like you had all the world’s music on your hard drive. Obsessing over small details can sometimes make all the difference. That’s what I believe is the biggest misunderstanding about the minimum viable product concept. That is the V in the MVP.
What is Spotify doing to make sure that hot artists like Adele and Taylor Swift don’t hold out?

On the one hand, we’re trying to keep doing better what we’ve been trying to do since we started Spotify – deliver great value to consumers and create value for artists by making sure that they are paid fairly for their amazing music and that we help them find new audiences in the process.

At the same time, we’re also working harder than ever to build ties to the creative community – artists, songwriters, producers and others – so that they understand how our business works and how committed we are to helping them succeed.

What are some interesting results you’ve learned analyzing Spotify’s user data?

Most people still describe their taste as either “everything” or a specific genre. The truth is, in our actual listening habits, most of us are very specific about what we want to listen to, but not by genre. Our habits and moments are what define our listening more than anything else. People want one kind of music when they’re getting ready to go out on the weekend, another for dinner at home, something else for working out, sleeping, and so on. And this “breaking down” of genre barriers opens up the way to much better, more interesting and more relevant programming – and music discovery.

SoundCloud is losing money, and Pandora is looking for a bailout, what does this mean for Spotify?

We have a very different business model in that Spotify is predominantly subscription. With subscription comes predictable revenues. So we feel comfortable investing in new markets, investing in our product and our content, because we know we have a robust, growing business model behind us.

How will you compete as Amazon, Google (incl. YouTube), Apple, etc. strengthen and expand the scope of their respective lock-in?

I believe in focus. All of the companies you mention have music as a hobby, a very small part of their overall business. We do one thing and try to do it really well. This means we have a company 100% dedicated to finding the right content, personalizing it for you and serving it up with partners who are specialized in what they do. The big platform companies don’t generally like partnering. We do. This opens up lots of doors.

To put it another way, we are really focused on delivering the best possible music experience you can find. I’m not saying we don’t think about the competition – of course we do, it would be crazy not to. But we think about them more in terms of how to make Spotify so easy, so fun, and so relevant for our users that whether you wait on lines for every new Apple device, get your groceries from Amazon Prime, or use every Google mail and workplace app, you still want to listen to music on Spotify because it’s the best experience there is.

How do you respond to some artists’ claims that music streaming services are harmful to the industry?

Well, let’s start with the big picture – the music industry is growing again. The music economy – like so much of the rest of the economy, from cars to publishing to news – is changing as it moves from an ownership model to an access model. And like any change, it can be complicated and challenging for lots of people. We get that, and we understand that. So it’s our responsibility to make sure that artists – and songwriters and producers and everyone else in music – understands that we are in this together with them, and that we are committed to their success.

Look, we pay the great majority of our revenue back to the music industry. And as we grow, that revenue is really making a difference. Many people don’t realize that the music industry was in decline throughout all the download years (with a one year exception in which it was basically flat). Now, finally, after years and years of decline, music is growing again, streaming is behind the growth in music, and Spotify is behind the growth in streaming.

So ultimately, we think the best measure of our contribution to the industry will be results – results that will give thousands and thousands of artists, songwriters, producers and so on the chance to do what they love, and their fans love, while being paid fairly for doing it. We love music, we love all the amazing people who make it, and we want to succeed together.

You can read all the Q&A’s with Daniel Ek here:

Writing about music, listening to music, and occasionally playing music.

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