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.”