Spotify’s CEO got roasted by artists after he said the cost of creating content is ‘close to zero.’ Now he’s trying to walk back his ‘clumsy’ remark

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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek triggered backlash from the music industry last week when he said the cost of creating content is “close to zero,” prompting him to clarify his remarks on Sunday. 

In a post on May 29, Ek mused that society is witnessing a resurgence of Stoicism, a philosophy adopted by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. But he started off by irritating some of the musicians that contribute to his platform. 

“Today, with the cost of creating content being close to zero, people can share an incredible amount of content. This has sparked my curiosity about the concept of long shelf life versus short shelf life,” Ek tweeted on X. 

Musicians, songwriters, and producers, among others, immediately took to social media to criticize Ek’s comments, with some pointing out the considerable cost associated with music, including for training, equipment, and production. 

In reply to Ek’s post, New Age artist Cheryl B. Engelhardt said she has put thousands of dollars into making her music.

“I created my Grammy-nominated album on a cross-country train, completely produced and mixed it myself,” said Engelhardt. “I was able to do that because of the thousands of $$ spent on quality sounds, my education, my gear, etc. Please get a clue and maybe talk to REAL musicians.”

Another Indie artist, Shimmer Johnson, called Ek “out of touch.”

“Don’t say stuff if you have no actual proper anything to compare it to !!! Great you’re a billionaire off of everyone else’s hard work and time !! Congrats,” Johnson wrote.

On Sunday, Ek tried to clarify his comments, saying that his earlier definition of content was “clumsy.”

“I understand how it came across as very reductive and that wasn’t my intent. Just to clarify – my original point was not to devalue the time, effort, or resources involved in creating meaningful works, whether it’s music, literature, or other forms of creative expression,” Ek wrote in the post.

He added that the cost of “creation tools” like microphones, laptops, and cameras has come down, leading to a surge in the amount of content people can produce.

Spotify has been criticized in the past for not paying artists, especially smaller musicians, their fair share for their content. Ek’s comments also come as Spotify announced its second price hike in a year on Monday. Individual U.S. subscribers will now pay $11.99, or $1 more per month, for ad-free streaming. 

“This update will help us continue delivering value to fans,” Spotify said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the company reported a record profit in the first quarter following cost-cutting measures last year that saw it lay off more than a quarter of its employees and scale down plans for its podcast business, in part by cutting original shows.

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