Variety Unloads on Spotify’s Daniel Ek After FC Barcelona Sponsorship — Calls CEO ‘Tone Deaf,’ Arrogant, and Greedy

Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek
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Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek
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Photo Credit: Fortune Live Media / CC by 2.0

As news filtered out of Spotify’s $300 million-plus sponsorship of the FC Barcelona soccer team, Variety quickly unloaded rounds on Spotify’s CEO and founder Daniel Ek.

In a report that lifted ‘scathing’ to a new level, Variety author Jem Aswad dragged Ek and Spotify on a number of grievances, including paltry songwriter payouts, general ‘tone-deafness,’ and greed in its opposition to songwriter pay increases.

Aswad opened the salvo by questioning the timing of the FC Barcelona deal in light of the Joe Rogan fallout and the situation in Ukraine, as well as the ongoing songwriter compensation battle.

“One might think that, just weeks after his company scraped through the biggest crisis of its existence — its stubborn defense of giving a gigantic international platform, not to mention more than $200 million, to Joe Rogan and his destructive, malignant opinions — Spotify’s Daniel Ek might exercise a little caution and humility,” Variety’s takedown began.

“One might think that, after paying millions to Capitol Hill lobbyists in an ongoing battle to pay less to songwriters — the very foundation of his company’s existence — than the Copyright Royalty Board decreed it should pay, he wouldn’t spend a reported $310 million on something as flashy and business-uncritical as sponsorship of a soccer team, especially with Russian bombs killing hundreds of Ukrainian civilians every day. But one would be wrong.”

Ek was further accused of “scraping through” the last few months as scandals have rocked the platform, part of a protracted broil of the billionaire streaming magnate.

Aswad also takes exception with the view of Spotify as a leader in protecting the rights of songwriters and artists. Variety notes that Spotify is known for losing hundreds of millions of dollars each year, despite being the world’s largest paid subscription service. Aswad described a lavish outlay of $310 million to sponsor the Catalan soccer team as “flashy and business-uncritical.”

Despite the string of seething paragraphs, there is praise for Ek and his Spotify business model based on the rebirth of the music industry thanks to streaming. Jem Aswad describes the creation of Spotify as akin to that of iTunes and the Walkman combined for its effect on society. And Daniel Ek is firmly credited with being at the forefront of the rise of Spotify.

But then it’s back to the brutal takedown.

“So read the room,” Aswad admonishes Ek. “The Joe Rogan controversy nearly upended your company, united even more of a largely alienated music community against you, and had much of your staff in open revolt — and you got through it by the skin of your teeth. Now you’re spending hundreds of millions on a curious football partnership, along with those plush, mostly empty offices and Times Square billboards and heaven knows what else, instead of paying songwriters. So be proud of the Barcelona FC partnership and the Rogan numbers and all the rest of it … but remember what pride usually goeth before.”

11 Responses

  1. Mitch Cumstein

    Who cares what leftist jackwads at Variety say? Does anyone really read it?

    • Idiot Detector

      Wasn’t it Hilary’s hard drive and those missing 30k emails? Or was it Bill Gates? You sound like a fool mentioning “leftist” anything. It proves right away that you have an agenda and not an informed opinion that should be paid attention to.

    • Noneya

      I don’t, but that doesn’t make this story wrong. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with this story. Spotify should pay it’s songwriters more. It’s clear they have the money. Daniel Ek is a disgusting and greedy person. He deserves all the public redicule the world can shower on his unclean soul. But you don’t care about that, you’re a republican. You probably think it’s great this guy is making billions while screwing an entire industry worth of people. Republicans sold their souls for a higher profit.

      • Henry Kissingor

        New York Times NOW says Hunter Biden’s laptop is real and NOT Russian disinformation! Interesting that took so long?

  2. Al Czervik

    Yeah, actually Wang here reads it. And so do people on Wall Street, Einstein.

  3. Truth

    She sounds like a spoiled ignorant child to be honest. You would expect a little more sense and insight from a published writer at Variety.

  4. Truth

    And besides the fact that deal would have been in the works for 6mos minimum, but likely over a year – I guess we should also remind everyone who might forget how biased DMN is against Spotify, and the mass misunderstanding and ignorance of the songwriting community that they don’t pay royalties off net expenses. Gross revenue, it’s an important distinction. That means any money on a soccer team or Joe Rogan was spent AFTER the PROs and labels/artists take their LIONS SHARE. I wish people would wake up and start following the money, then we can begin going after the real enemies robbing artists.

  5. Atticus Flinch

    This moron from Variety needs mental help. The leftist commie meltdown over Joe Rogan MADE money for Spotify.

    Thanks for playing, Variety. How about you do some real journalism—like why Hunter Biden is not in jail?

    • Idiot Detector

      Leftist? Hunter Biden? You’ve proven yourself to be unstable and living in your own bubble world. Move over, psycho.