As the CEO of Spotify, the company leading the charge through the uncharted, murky waters of music streaming, Daniel Ek has his fair share of supporters and critics. Chief among the naysayers, as anyone who looked at the news in 2014 knows, is Taylor Swift.
But what do people really know about Ek? For our latest cover story, out June 5, Billboard spoke with the Swedish entrepreneur and learned about his pre-Spotify millions, the first bands he pirated on Napster, getting driven around by Neil Young, and, yes, his thoughts on Swift. Here are five things to know about Ek.
He Was a Music Pirate As a Kid
“We got computers and fixed-line Internet,” Ek recalls of turning 14. “And then I heard about Napster, and I could download all of this music for free.” Ek says he spent a lot of time searching for Metallica songs (don’t tell Lars Ulrich) and even heard his first Led Zeppelin song, “Kashmir,” through Napster.
He Made His Millions Before Spotify
After selling the online marketing company Advertigo, Ek was a multi-millionaire at age 22. “I was the kid who was spraying champagne, driving sports cars and doing a lot of obnoxious stuff,” Ek admits, pointing out his life — which now includes two children with his fiancée, Sofia Levander, a writer and one-time Swedish reality TV star — is a lot different now.
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This Is What He Thinks About Taylor Swift
“It’s hard to criticize someone who’s so successful,” Ek admits. But hey, that’s not going to stop him from trying. Ek opines it’s “ironic” she’s not as big of a pop star in Sweden considering “all of her producers are Swedish,” referring to Max Martin and Shellback.
Neil Young Chauffeured Him Once
When Ek landed in San Francisco on a trip in 2012, he received a text that a car was waiting to pick him up for a planned meeting with the rock legend. “I walked out, saw the white car and I was about to jump in — and it was Neil Young driving,” he says. “That surprised me.” After talking about Occupy Wall Street and Young’s frustrations with the audio quality of music streaming services, Ek says, “I got goosebumps.”
He’s Not Worried About Apple’s Impending Foray Into Streaming
As international business giant Apple prepares to enter the streaming game, Spotify isn’t sweating. “Apple will probably be pretty successful, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of Spotify,” Ek says.
Read the full cover story on Spotify CEO Daniel Ek when it comes out Friday, June 5.