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SXSW: Spotify's Daniel Ek Says the Ideal User Experience 'Is Not So Different From Radio'

Daniel Ek Spotify CEO Speaking - P 2013
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In a featured discussion at South By Southwest, the $300 million man offers advice for young entrepreneurs and addresses controversy surrounding the streaming service's royalty rates.

When a South By Southwest attendee is described as “perhaps the most relevant man" at the festival, it's no surprise that speaker can nearly fill a theater. Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, did just that in a conversation with Forbes associate editor Steven Bertoni billed as "Forbes 30 Under 30."

The hour-plus discussion covered a wide range of topics, from advice for young entrepreneurs (Ek has a net worth of more than $300 million) to the controversy surrounding the streaming service's royalty structure as it relates to recording artists.

A recurring theme: the ease-of-use of music technology and how that has changed the industry -- also whether that change is a good or a bad thing (there was no real consensus). “The tools of actually creating music have become so cheap that anyone can do it,” said the 30-year-old Ek, a native of Sweden. “But that doesn't mean that anyone can be creative.”

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To his credit, Ek seemed genuinely concerned about the well-being of the artists who have a presence on Spotify. “I want to get back to the time when artists can create a piece of music for five years without worrying about how to pay rent,” said Ek, convincingly. He added: "Creating music used to be really expensive. Distributing music used to be really expensive. Then, marketing was also kind of tough: It was built on relationships with radio stations, MTV, Rolling Stone ... we don't charge any artists to be on the Spotify platform. That means distribution basically costs zero. Weirdly enough, though, marketing has become tougher than it ever was -- you have to be on social media channels, YouTube, and Spotify -- you have to have all those things working for you.”

Ek also touched on the future of both his platform and where he sees music and tech going in the next few years. “The experience I want is not so different than radio,” he said. “You go to a physical device, turn it on and get great music.” He sees the key being devices that are interconnected, whether it's via wifi, bluetooth, or some other technology. “Technology is less interesting,” he said. “The fact is, they are connected. That's going to be huge. We're going to see a drastic shift in display and interaction.”

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That said, it's another media form that Ek sees as the model. “You're seeing better television than ever before,” he said. “People who did movies are going over to TV. The most interesting part about it is, it's done at the expense of movies!”'

As for Spotify? People can expect, no surprise, more inter-connectivity. He talked about his friends who are themselves musicians. “What if everyone could listen to their music [playlists?] he asked, semi-hypothetically. “Everyone from Macklemore to Avicii to Skrillex is creating content that can reach hundreds, if not thousands of people -- instantly.”

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