Business

Why Top Spotify Executives Are Streaming Out Of The Company

Spotify 2017
Tim Warner/Getty Images for Spotify

A view from the crowd during Spotify's RapCaviar Live in Houston at Revention Music Center on Dec. 14, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  

In recent weeks, a slew of high-profile executives have exited Spotify, leaving outsiders wondering why.

In part, a source tells Billboard, the timing is a reflection of Spotify’s long-awaited public listing on the New York Stock Exchange in April representing a "natural endpoint" psychologically for team members who joined the decade-old company in its scrappy startup days.

But there are other factors at play as well. For one, some departures followed internal reshuffling aimed at streamlining operations for the newly public company, which is now facing shareholder pressure to become profitable. While a source says some of the reorg was aimed at making it easier for artist and label partners to interact with Spotify - not at cutting costs - the resulting efficiencies may please investors banking that Spotify will find ways to pare its losses as it continues to grow, racking up 3,813 full-time employees and contractors globally as of March 31. (In the first quarter, nearly half of its new hires were for research and development.)

Though each outgoing top Spotify exec has unique set of circumstances behind their exits, sources tell Billboard, head of artist and industry partnerships Mark Williamson, UK/international head of artist and label services Kevin Brown and head of artist and label marketing Dave Rocco, for example, were all part of a hodgepodge of artist and label-facing departments that Spotify consolidated months ago. In May, Universal Music Group announced it had hired Rocco to serve a newly created role, executive vp of creative, while Spotify promoted Rosa Asciolla to head of artist and label marketing for North America the same month. Several artist managers told Billboard they applauded her ascension, in part because the well-liked Asciolla, who joined Spotify’s artist services department in 2013, doesn’t hail from the major-label universe.

Longtime London-based communications and marketing executive Angela Watts, meanwhile, sent a note to associates that she was leaving after Spotify this month, saying it seemed like the "right time to catch up on some sleep and explore new ways to keep occupied" after more than 8 years at the company. Spotify announced in November it had hired Target veteran Dustee Jenkins to head its global communications, a role senior to Watts’.

Another reason for some of the departures: though music curators are in growing demand these days, driving up their prices, Spotify doesn’t see its curators as bigger stars than its playlists themselves, a philosophy that could also help the company’s economics. George Ergatoudis, who was Spotify’s head of music culture, international shows & editorial content, is moving to Apple Music, while longtime Rap Caviar curator Tuma Basa took a job at YouTube in March, fetching a salary that would have topped that of his manager at Spotify, a source tells Billboard.

While Spotify may be shedding some of its highest-profile execs, it is still aggressively hiring around the world, with 60 engineering and IT positions listed on its website. Among five jobs open in Los Angeles is a junior "supervising creative producer" to oversee weekly video programming targeted to hip-hop music fans." Its Stockholm headquarters is also seeking a music programmer to curate playlists for moods and activities like working out, cooking, chilling and sleeping. "Your work will impact the way the world experiences music," the listing says.