You may have seen the book reviews of “Spotify Untold” (or in Swedish ““Spotify Inifrån”) which is a corporate version of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey from The Hero With A Thousand Faces aka Star Wars). You can plug Daniel Ek into the hero’s role pretty easily:
Barely a page into the book “Spotify Untold,” Swedish authors Jonas Leijonhufvud (pictured at left) and Sven Carlsson paint an odd scene. The year is 2010 and Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek [the hero] is facing a succession of obstacles [the Threshold Guardians] gaining entry into the U.S. market [the region of supernatural wonder] — or, more specifically, infiltrating the tightly-networked and often nepotistic to a fault music industry. [Unlike Silicon Valley] As stress sets in [Challenges and Temptations], Ek becomes convinced that Apple’s Steve Jobs is calling his phone just to breathe deeply on the other end of the line, he purportedly confesses to a colleague [a Helper].
There’s a saying, “don’t speak ill of the dead.” That’s probably a bit superstitious for the authors, but is good advice. It’s unbecoming and Spotify should denounce it.
One thing I can tell you is that the Steve legend (a competing hero’s journey myth–a real one) has some choice tales of voice mails. None of them involved heavy breathing, and Variety reports that the authors were not able to confirm this rather insulting and perverse allegation. What they do say is:
To us, Ek’s claim is as a reflection of how paranoid and anxious he must have felt in 2010, when Spotify was being denied access to the U.S. market, in large part due to pressure from Apple. The major record companies seem to have been quite loyal to the iTunes Music Store, and to Jobs personally….Because Spotify was hindered by Steve Jobs [it’s called competition], it forced the company to sweeten its deals with the record companies [also called competition]….Spotify is challenging Apple on a legal level right now. We address Spotify’s constant struggle with Apple in our book. If Ek were to talk about such sensitive topics in book form, [Spotify would] do it in their own way with full control.
The first thing I thought of when reading the story of “Spotify Untold” is that very competition claim that Spotify is pursuing in Europe right now and pursued with the Obama competition authorities a few years ago. And then of course there was the New York state competition claim that came out the same time as Apple Music launched in the US apparently led by Spotify’s very own Clintonista who was a political ally of Eric Schneiderman the former (ahem) New York Attorney General. While the authors claim that they spoke to many Spotify executives but not Ek, the book still has curious timing as does the disclaimer that the book is not connected to Spotify directly.
I would be very curious to know why the authors came away from their research thinking that the major labels were “quite loyal” to iTunes and to Steve Jobs. While that may have been true of certain executives, the reason that the labels required licensees to sell in Windows Media DRM (i.e., the format nobody wanted) was because they wanted to compete with iTunes. Even after they dropped that failed idea, the labels large and small did not want a single retailer dominating the digital market.
So while I don’t know what motivated the authors, I do think that there’s a definite whiff of Astroturf in a book that tells a story that fits almost perfectly with the hero’s journey that Spotify would like to be telling competition authorities. I think the authors are aware of this, hence their disclaimers.
And I’m still waiting for the last leg of Daniel Ek’s hero’s arc, the transformation and atonement. Which is the part that makes the hero a hero. As the authors tell us, “[Spotify] would probably rather tell their story themselves than have us do it for them, but I think they understand our role as journalists.”
I just bet they do.
If you think this is paranoid, watch this video from Sharyl Attkisson. Let’s just say I don’t put anything past these guys.