We reported on Fast Company’s profile of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek yesterday, but the magazine’s website has since posted a longer transcript of its interviews with Ek. One of the illuminating anecdotes about Spotify’s past decade focuses on the company’s first hyper-personalised algorithm-driven playlist Discover Weekly, which launched in July 2015.
“I would have killed that if it was just me, 100%,” said Ek in the new interview. “I never really saw the beauty of it. I questioned them two, three times: Are you sure you really want to do this? Why are we spending all this time and energy? For a while, we didn’t give that team any more funding in terms of headcount, but they kept working on it anyway. All of a sudden they shipped it. I remember reading about it in the press. I thought, oh, this is going to be a disaster. And then obviously it turned out to be something really successful. It’s one of the most loved product features that we have.”
The ‘all of a sudden they shipped it’ comment is a surprise: at the time, Music Ally was pre-briefed on the new feature including an interview with product manager Matthew Ogle, so there was more strategy afoot than simply a team shipping by surprise. In any case, the anecdote was part of a wider point by Ek about the importance of good decisions below his level at the company – 99-cent subscription promotions being another that he initially didn’t agree with.
“I usually judge a leader on the basis of, if I’m able to come up with a better suggestion or solution to a problem. If not, it’s the right leader. If I am, then there’s a problem and we have to replace the leader…”