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The Spotify Play: How CEO and Founder Daniel Ek Beat Apple, Google, and Amazon in the Race for Audio Dominance

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The David vs. Goliath story of Spotify CEO and Founder Daniel Ek―who bet everything on disruptive innovation, and played the giants of Silicon Valley, the music industry, and the podcast world in his quest to build today’s largest online source of audio Steve Jobs had tried to stop this moment from ever happening. Google and Microsoft made bids to preempt it. The music indu The David vs. Goliath story of Spotify CEO and Founder Daniel Ek―who bet everything on disruptive innovation, and played the giants of Silicon Valley, the music industry, and the podcast world in his quest to build today’s largest online source of audio Steve Jobs had tried to stop this moment from ever happening. Google and Microsoft made bids to preempt it. The music industry had blocked it time and again. Yet, on a summer’s eve in 2011, the whiz kid CEO of a Swedish start-up celebrated his company’s US launch. In the midst of the Apple-Android tech war and a music-label crusade against piracy and illegal downloading, Spotify redrew the battle lines, sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley, and got the hardline executives at Universal, Sony, and Warner to sign with his “freemium” platform. Daniel Ek conquered the music streaming world. Yet the fight for complete audio dominance―music and podcasts―was far from over. In The Spotify Play, journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud draw upon hundreds of interviews, previously untapped sources, and in-depth reporting on figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Steve Jobs, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Pony Ma Huateng, and Jimmy Iovine. They reveal how Spotify revolutionized the consumption of sound, with more than 50 million songs, a million-plus podcasts, and a user base expected to surpass 350 million in 2021.


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The David vs. Goliath story of Spotify CEO and Founder Daniel Ek―who bet everything on disruptive innovation, and played the giants of Silicon Valley, the music industry, and the podcast world in his quest to build today’s largest online source of audio Steve Jobs had tried to stop this moment from ever happening. Google and Microsoft made bids to preempt it. The music indu The David vs. Goliath story of Spotify CEO and Founder Daniel Ek―who bet everything on disruptive innovation, and played the giants of Silicon Valley, the music industry, and the podcast world in his quest to build today’s largest online source of audio Steve Jobs had tried to stop this moment from ever happening. Google and Microsoft made bids to preempt it. The music industry had blocked it time and again. Yet, on a summer’s eve in 2011, the whiz kid CEO of a Swedish start-up celebrated his company’s US launch. In the midst of the Apple-Android tech war and a music-label crusade against piracy and illegal downloading, Spotify redrew the battle lines, sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley, and got the hardline executives at Universal, Sony, and Warner to sign with his “freemium” platform. Daniel Ek conquered the music streaming world. Yet the fight for complete audio dominance―music and podcasts―was far from over. In The Spotify Play, journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud draw upon hundreds of interviews, previously untapped sources, and in-depth reporting on figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Steve Jobs, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Pony Ma Huateng, and Jimmy Iovine. They reveal how Spotify revolutionized the consumption of sound, with more than 50 million songs, a million-plus podcasts, and a user base expected to surpass 350 million in 2021.

30 review for The Spotify Play: How CEO and Founder Daniel Ek Beat Apple, Google, and Amazon in the Race for Audio Dominance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Solid overview of how Spotify was founded by music and technology enthusiast Daniel Ek, then transformed into the dominant delivery system of songs and podcasts for millions of people around the globe. I don’t use Spotify but still found interesting this deep dive into the audio streaming wars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Hughes

    I thought this was a very good case study of a successful company. I think there is a lot that can be learned from books like this. I thought the text was accessible and it was an easy read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nora Žáková

    Táto kniha plná zaujímavých, niekedy až šokujúcich informácií, nie je výnimočná ničím iným, len samotnou spoločnosťou a výnimočnými ľuďmi, ktorých snahu a životné dielo opisuje.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ema Mele

    Knihu jsem zhltla jako malinu, bavily mě krátké kapitolky pojmenované podle písní a svižný novinářský styl autorů. Bylo zajímavé úspěšnou nadnárodní firmu sledovat od start-upových plenek a projít s nimi všechny slepé uličky. A že jich nebylo málo. Třeba ten nápad, že tě Spotify bude šmírovat při všem, co děláš, aby ti hned, jak zapneš appku, začala hrát hudba, po které v skrytu duše toužíš. Kupodivu se ta funkce nejmenovala Creepy as F*ck, ale Moments 😁. Taky mi zlomilo srdce, že firmu založili Knihu jsem zhltla jako malinu, bavily mě krátké kapitolky pojmenované podle písní a svižný novinářský styl autorů. Bylo zajímavé úspěšnou nadnárodní firmu sledovat od start-upových plenek a projít s nimi všechny slepé uličky. A že jich nebylo málo. Třeba ten nápad, že tě Spotify bude šmírovat při všem, co děláš, aby ti hned, jak zapneš appku, začala hrát hudba, po které v skrytu duše toužíš. Kupodivu se ta funkce nejmenovala Creepy as F*ck, ale Moments 😁. Taky mi zlomilo srdce, že firmu založili v daňovém ráji. Jsem myslela, že Seveřani tohle nedělaj... Ke konci mě trochu mrzelo, že to víc nerozebírá současné funkce appky a že to nemá nějaký delší sofistikovanější závěr. Fanoušky Spotify potěší (a možná je to odradí od touhy kupovat jejich akcie), ostatní můžou klidně pokračovat dál.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emanuele Gemelli

    Quite detailed and documented history of a service which I use quite often; I learnt that I am not a favorite customer of them, since they prefer, by far, the ones who pay the subscription (having grown listening to private radio, the ads are annoying, but still within acceptable levels); that because I use the service very often I am bombarded to offer to become (sorry guys, not yet too much money). I also learnt that my favorite playlists maybe AI generated: I mean, not the playlists, but the Quite detailed and documented history of a service which I use quite often; I learnt that I am not a favorite customer of them, since they prefer, by far, the ones who pay the subscription (having grown listening to private radio, the ads are annoying, but still within acceptable levels); that because I use the service very often I am bombarded to offer to become (sorry guys, not yet too much money). I also learnt that my favorite playlists maybe AI generated: I mean, not the playlists, but the songs themselves. Finally, I found the tone of the authors appropriate, not too hagiographic, not too harsh with Daniel Ek. Good read

  6. 4 out of 5

    Neea

    Interesting, but a little shallow review about the company's accomplishments so far. It would've been much more interesting if they had managed to get Daniel Ek to participate in the creating process. Interesting, but a little shallow review about the company's accomplishments so far. It would've been much more interesting if they had managed to get Daniel Ek to participate in the creating process.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Siddhartha

    Persistence is the key. Step 1: Believe in your idea Step 2: Be persistent in achieving it Step 3: Pivot your business to achieve growth Step 4: Be nimble and agile 4 steps pretty much sums up the writer's intention. If you follow music artists or a fan of Steve Jobs you will follow through. Persistence is the key. Step 1: Believe in your idea Step 2: Be persistent in achieving it Step 3: Pivot your business to achieve growth Step 4: Be nimble and agile 4 steps pretty much sums up the writer's intention. If you follow music artists or a fan of Steve Jobs you will follow through.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Risto Kärkkäinen

    Quite a shallow account on how Spotify got to this point. Main take away as usual was that relationships matter when taking over the world

  9. 4 out of 5

    Josh Cheung

    I didn't learn how Spotify beat Apple, Google, and Amazon. I didn't learn how Spotify beat Apple, Google, and Amazon.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jake Hurst

    Just ok...

  11. 4 out of 5

    James Cridland

    Spotify is quite a secretive company. It's quite hard to know quite what's going on in it - and this book is an interesting view of it from many people who have been involved with it. The story of how it started is interesting, and in many ways is the typical "naive startup in an apartment" story, except this one starts with quite a bit of money. It focuses on Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO, and tries to highlight his metamorphosis from unsure, scruffy awkward tech guy to the CEO of one of the lar Spotify is quite a secretive company. It's quite hard to know quite what's going on in it - and this book is an interesting view of it from many people who have been involved with it. The story of how it started is interesting, and in many ways is the typical "naive startup in an apartment" story, except this one starts with quite a bit of money. It focuses on Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO, and tries to highlight his metamorphosis from unsure, scruffy awkward tech guy to the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world for music. As a story, it kind of succeeds - though Ek's story isn't quite a rags-to-riches story, being more riches-to-riches, if we can be entirely honest. The book contains many interesting details - Spotify's strange attempted pivot to trying to be a video service, as one thing, which appeared to have consumed a large amount of money and be entirely unsuccessful. You'll hear Spotify talk now about their ambition to be the place people consume audio - and this is mainly driven by a failure to make themselves a media aggregator as they were hoping to be. It's clear that the main thing holding Spotify back was the record companies, who dragged their feet at every opportunity - a strange thing for them to do, given it revitalised their industry and simultaneously eradicated much of the music piracy problem that they were dealing with. And, as comes as no surprise, Steve Jobs comes across as a Machiavellian schemer, whispering bad things into the record companies' ears. I've loathed every little thing about the Steve Jobs story - and this is yet another book that highlights what an unpleasant shit of a man he was. Spotify's foray into podcasting started in 2015, so it appears. This is an English version of a Swedish book published in 2019, and though it has since been updated, Spotify's dizzying acquisition trail in podcasting is compressed into a few pages, and you don't get that much of a view into the company's vision there. You do get a sense of the time that an IPO takes in any company; and the clever way that Spotify achieved their flotation. As Ek is quoted as saying, it was a choice to either float onto the stock market or sell the company to someone like Google or Apple (both apparently sniffed about a bit). It is possibly a little disappointing that this takes up so much of a company's focus, given that this is ultimately nothing that a consumer will ever notice. You also understand how important Spotify's "influencers" were to its success, given the slew of copycat services in the US. The method behind 'Discovery Weekly', the clever personalisation method that Spotify uses to keep you listening longer (and act as a product differentiator), is discussed which is fascinating - spoiler, they use user playlists as a way to get similarities of songs. But you don't get much more insight into the black box of how Spotify works. And perhaps that's the slight disappointment - that Spotify refused to take part in this book. It's a positive, and quite Swedish, history of the company - respectful to everyone, with lots of detail though few real surprises. Spotify missed an opportunity to work more closely on this book - and any criticism I've heard about this book has been from ex-Spotify people, who've pointed out the detachment of the authors from the story; it's especially told from a Swedish, rather than US or UK, viewpoint. But if you've any interest in how Spotify works as a company, this is a good book to spend time with. You'll end up with a renewed admiration for what the company has achieved, and the way in which it all happened. (I was sent a preview copy as a watermarked PDF, which I read on my e-reader).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martina

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob S

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elias Keersmaekers

  15. 4 out of 5

    Petrucha

  16. 5 out of 5

    Juha

  17. 5 out of 5

    J

  18. 5 out of 5

    Danny Carrillo

  19. 4 out of 5

    Filip Okapal

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sander van Steenpaal

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna Väisänen

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aakar Shroff

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sari Venäläinen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian M

  25. 4 out of 5

    Анастасия Страшненко

  26. 5 out of 5

    Filip Kovář

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marcel Onink

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anu

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pavel Švec

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Beima

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