Netflix’s corporate biopic about Daniel Ek is just a story [Chris Castle]


It’s a great story, but that’s just it. Netflix’s new biopic about Spotidy founder and CEO Daniel Ek is just one story and not very well told.

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It’s a great story, but that’s just it. Just a story.

of To tear outwritten by Guy Richie

You may have noticed that there is a multi-part Netflix mini-series called “The Playlist” based on this book:

“The Spotify Play: How CEO and Founder Daniel Ek Beat Apple, Google and Amazon in the race for audio dominance” is an English translation of Spotify Inifran, the Swedish book this is all based on, which I believe is loosely translated as “Spotify Untold” or as Spotify’s Inside Story. Nobody knows how it went from “Spotify Untold” to a title straight out of a corporate communications department of failed English majors. But note that the book has now been refocused on the really important – ahem – story of how Daniel Ek crushed the competition and secured his monopoly on world music, or as he calls it “audio”.

For these writers, calling music “audio” is very much in line with the story of Spotify’s business model that Daniel Ek is telling on Wall Street (which is, in all likelihood, the important audience for all of this from the perspective of Spotify view). Listen to any Spotify earnings call and you’ll hear what I mean.

The somewhat manic focus on global dominance is also interesting when you consider the fact that Daniel Ek uses the 10:1 voting stock he retains to control music streaming globally, which may explain why the Spotify’s algorithms always seem to say “Bieber”. He might want to pay a little attention to the word “dominance”.

Just in time for Netflix’s debut, Spotify’s stock plummeted. Which raises the question of why Spotify has always been a public company. But that’s a story for another day. Here’s what it looks like to “beat” Apple, Google and Amazon (the red straight line at the bottom of the chart is where Spotify closed on the first day of trading):

You will notice that this chart is the relative percentage growth of all these stocks measured over the same period. Spotify briefly outperformed the rest during COVID, but it’s now easy to find because it’s the one with the minus sign in front of its growth rate.

The book publisher’s weekly review sort of sums it up:

The authors display more enthusiasm for Ek than readers are likely to have (they call the frequent lies in his personal life “entrepreneurial hustle” and spend pages writing about the “headaches” behind his multimillion-dollar homes), and let some of its surprising claims slip away like whims, such as with an account of Ek insisting that Steve Jobs called him to breathe on the phone and intimidate him.

I think if you do the chronology of this Steve Jobs anecdote, you will find it particularly strange because Steve was quite busy at that time. He was busy dying. Which makes the anecdote both disturbing and a little sick.

I happened to have a conversation with a Hollywood movie director – let’s call him “Bubba” – about the Netflix miniseries and the weird way a book in Swedish was set up for production on Netflix at lightning speed without ever making it to a best seller list or gaining an audience.

“Does it smell like that? said Bubba, doing a Robert Duvall impression in Apocalypse now.“Nothing else in the world is as small as this. It smells… astroturf.

Oh good? I said. Which part?

“All of that,” Bubba said. “But listen, this is just a story. A group of workers got paid to tell a story that a rich guy wanted to tell in a certain way. These workers can go on to do something important like sending their child to college or writing the next Citizen KaneWhere Chinese district. Or dirty harry Besides. But this month, they could pay gas and their mortgage. Just another day in Hollywood. Let’s get the steak tartare.

So many questions about how this book was written and the miniseries was made. The solution is probably the same as for disclosing payola on the radio.


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