Daniel Ek (co-founder of Spotify) and Sean Parker (Director at Spotify) just took the stage here at D10, with Walt Mossberg asking the two about the company's impact in America, negotiations with record labels and -- perhaps surprisingly -- its links with Apple. Outside of confirming that there's still around 10 million Spotify users worldwide (with around three million of those being of the paid variety), the duo also confirmed that it's working daily to improve the catalog. Said Ek: "We're up to 18 million songs, growing at 10,000 or 20,000 songs per day -- it's very much a growing catalog." Walt was curious as to why iTunes had upwards of 30 million tracks, and why all of the services simply don't have the same library, but both players were quick to brush off the topic and pivot directly to the importance of playlists.
Ek stated: "If you look at iTunes, the vast majority of songs haven't been purchased by anyone -- it's driven by hits. We see 80 percent of our whole catalog listened to." Following that, Parker contributed: "The playlist is now the CD. It used to be a few songs were wanted by the consumer, and the rest of it was garbage. It's the new mixtape, but accelerated on a massive scale." As it turns out, Spotify actually sells "bundles" (which are glorified playlists) as pay products in Europe, and when Walt asked why these weren't available in America, Parker obliged: "We just haven't released it yet." In other words, they're coming soon.
Closing up, Walt asked the duo about a whisper he'd heard: that Apple was actively trying to block Spotify from coming to the US. Daniel wouldn't open his lips, but Parker couldn't resist. After explaining that it took some 2.5 years of negotiations to get approval for operation in America (which was supposed to be a ~12 week process), he added this:
"There was some indication that [the act of blocking] might have been happening, and you know -- it's actually a very small industry in a lot of ways. Certainly more than 10 to 12 years ago. It's a handful of guys really running the record business. They tend to talk amongst each other about this stuff, and one of our core competencies is our negotiations and legal framework. We wanted a never-ending negotiation -- we're always in negotiation. In that process, you hear things, and people send you emails. There's definitely a sense in which Apple was threatened by what we were doing. But realistically, what we're doing is such a small part of their business, it wouldn't be hugely significant to its bottom line."
Both guys confessed that Apple could flip on a similar service at any moment, but didn't seem too scared by the idea. After all, their growth has been pretty outstanding so far, and the roots they've planted in Facebook can't be understated. Naturally, Parker also couldn't help but mentioning that Ping was "an utter failure," which -- crazily enough -- we aren't entirely sure Tim Cook would disagree with.