The UJA-Federation of New York honored Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and the streaming service’s global head of creator services Troy Carter as dual recipients of their Music Visionary of the Year honor on Tuesday (June 12) during an annual luncheon at New York City’s Pierre Hotel that brought together some of the music industry’s biggest names. The overarching theme of the afternoon focused on the UJA-Federation’s charitable efforts, as well as those of Ek and Carter and their their immense impact on the music industry at large.
Glassnote head and UJA Vice Chair Daniel Glass kicked off the proceedings, noting that the luncheon, an annual event for over 15 years, is the “most important event in the industry calendar we have.” Glass spoke of his personal connection to Ek, saying the executive has “always been a dreamer. Years ago, when the seeds of Spotify came out of Napster, people thought he was a fool, people thought he was a savant. He was thrown out of meetings. Today, we understand the breadth and scope of what he’s helped build. His dreams are coming true and we thank him for his generosity and his leadership and vision.”
Glass also spoke of Carter, of whom he also has a personal friendship with, in similar fashion. “With Troy and his wife Rebecca, we’ve shared incredible occasions together,” he noted, touching on Carter’s penchant for supporting political causes. “We were together on the last major election in this country, where we were saluting our good friend [current California senator]—- Kamala Harris, and hours later were deflated when certain [presidential] results came in. We shared that and held hands and Troy has enlisted me and my wife on many occasions to help.”
Carter, who accepted the honor on behalf of himself and Ek, was presented his award with a surprise appearance by Patti Labelle, who said the mogul is like a son to her. “He’s such a visionary, he’s an entrepreneur and he’s a lover of life. He gives hope to people, even in this business with its highs and lows, which I know about very well because I’ve had my own highs and lows.” Labelle pointed out that what sets Carter apart was a steadfast attitude against rejection. “Whenever Troy would hear ‘no’ as an answer, he’d say ‘hell no’ to that no.”
Upon accepting his honor, Carter noted that it was a rabid fandom of DJ Jazzy Jeff (who also happened to be the event’s resident DJ) that initially stirred his passion for working in the music industry. “I was so obsessed with hip-hop as a kid that me and my two friends started this rap group called 2 Too Many and we’d sneak on the train to stand in front of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s studio, where he’d look at us like we were stalkers and pretend not to see us.” Carter and his cohorts had a “stupid” dream that the iconic DJ would sign the group. “And they actually signed us, but I think it was the quickest signing and dropping of all time.”
Despite the jovial atmosphere, last week’s tragic deaths of the fashion designer Kate Spade and food personality Anthony Bourdain were front and center, both touched on in Glass’ opening speech as well as a special toast by special guest Dr. Julius Erving. The remembrances played into a theme of giving back and propping people up, tied into the UJA’s global mission, whether providing assistance after last year’s string of devastating hurricanes or supporting the surviving members of the Holocaust.
Carter described how he was touched by the federation’s mission after visiting an elementary school and community center located in New York’s impoverished Washington Heights neighborhood. ‘”I met a women that reminded me of my grandmother and I met kids that reminded of myself, including kids that lost loved ones to gun violence.” Carter also recalled how his father served 13 years in jail on a gun related charge, “while I served 13 years on the street trying to figure out how to be a man. We didn’t have places like UJA for this, but I wish we did back then. It’s good to know that families like mine have a Sherpa like UJA.”
Also featuring performances by R&B crooner H.E.R. and soul singer Leon Bridges, Glass noted that the 600 attendees in the room helped raise a collective 1.2 million dollars for the cause. “I think it’s important for the world to know what our industry does,” said Carter. “It’s amazing to know that I’m a part of an industry that genuinely cares about the outcome of others.”