We believe that speed of iteration beats quality of iteration, which is why we’re not big on bureaucracy.— Daniel Ek
Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) is the founder, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of directors of Spotify, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service, with 320M users, including 144M subscribers, across 92 markets.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
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Want to hear an episode that can help clarify how Shopify and Spotify differ in leadership? Check out my conversation with Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke, in which we discuss feedback as a gift, fostering a growth mindset, the impact of dyslexia on Tobi’s reading list and coding endeavors, understanding “the next box,” why the business world should be keeping a close eye on the video game industry, Enneagrams, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Daniel Ek:
- Eldsjäl Translation in English | bab.la
- Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word | NPR
- Lagom Translation in English | bab.la
- Swedes Living In the US Share Their Most Memorable Cultural Clashes | Swedes in the States
- Quote by George Bernard Shaw: “The Reasonable Man Adapts Himself to the World…” | Goodreads
- The American-Western European Values Gap | Pew Research Center
- What Is Montessori Education? | American Montessori Society
- Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss
- Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s 10 Favorite Books | Vulture
- Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed
- Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger Edited by Ed Wexler
- The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
- Daniel Ek | The Observer Effect
- Y Combinator
- Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule | Paul Graham
- What Is a Knowledge Worker and How Is Knowledge Work Changing? | Panopto
- Exclusive: Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on Apple, Facebook, Netflix–and the Future | Fast Company
- Tours of Duty: How to Organize Modern Employment | Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
- A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy: 1881-1906 (Vol. 1) by John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel: 1907-1916 (Vol. 2) by John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 (Vol. 3) by John Richardson
- A Brief History of the Michelin Star Rating | Escoffier
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
- Elon Musk AMA | Reddit
- Brilliant Minds
- Internet in Sweden | Wikipedia
- Broadband Blues | The Economist
- What’s the origin story of Daniel’s Twitter handle, @eldsjal? [06:36]
- In what context does the Swedish word “lagom” (which means something akin to just right) get used often at Spotify — a company immersed in both Swedish and American culture? [09:24]
- Does Daniel think he was born eldsjäl, or was it something he picked up along the way? [12:54]
- As a parent, does Daniel favor raising his children with the guaranteed social safety net his own European upbringing provided — which allowed him the freedom to tinker without worrying about food and shelter — or a more hands-off American approach that necessitates some level of success in order to survive? Is there a happy medium? [17:13]
- As someone who reads “north of 60 or 70 books” per year, what is it about Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist that makes them particularly memorable and influential to Daniel? [20:40]
- There was a time when Daniel let his health fall by the wayside and he weighed 40 or 50 pounds more than he does today. What helped him turn things around and get back to a more ideal weight? [30:09]
- While Daniel hasn’t been one to shy away from 100-hour workweeks when necessary, one of his defining characteristics is knowing how to prioritize focus. What impact does this have on his typical schedule? [34:49]
- How does Daniel approach the concept of roles in a given meeting, and why is it important to be clear on those roles beforehand? [38:20]
- What do Daniel’s annual reviews with his immediate leadership team look like, and how do they address the rapid pace of change Spotify has experienced thus far and expects to continue over the years to come? [44:13]
- As CEO, what does Daniel view as the most crucial components of his job, and what allows him to perform them optimally? [50:19]
- While their names might get them confused with one another, Spotify and Shopify are two completely different entities — and so are their CEOs. How does Daniel compare and contrast his company, culture, and leadership with that of our mutual friend, Shopify’s Tobi Lütke? [56:52]
- Are there any biographies that stand out for Daniel? [1:01:05]
- Favorite books on management. [1:02:22]
- Daniel shares some tough-to-hear feedback he got from someone on his leadership team and what it taught him about being mindful of the value he’s adding (or not adding) to his interactions. [1:03:05]
- Rather than defining static jobs within Spotify, the company prefers to assign missions to staff that last about two years. What have Daniel’s two-year missions entailed? [1:08:45]
- How does Daniel ensure he stays on target when he’s working to fulfill a mission? How has his process adapted over time? [1:10:48]
- What does Daniel mean when he says: “We believe that speed of iteration beats quality of iteration?” [1:16:29]
- What is Brilliant Minds, and how did it start? [1:19:09]
- How and why Daniel dedicates a significant portion of his wealth to “moonshots” across Europe. [1:21:52]
- What would Daniel’s billboard say? [1:28:47]
- Parting thoughts. [1:31:13]
- George Bernard Shaw
- Matthew Syed
- Charlie Munger
- Paulo Coelho
- Jerry Seinfeld
- Paul Graham
- Reid Hoffman
- Peter Thiel
- Elon Musk
- Mike Cannon-Brookes
- Walter Isaacson
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Pablo Picasso
- Andy Grove
- Ben Horowitz
- Matthew McConaughey
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Steve Jobs
- Ash Pournouri
- Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson
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7 Replies to “Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify — Habits, Systems and Mental Models for Top Performance (#484)”
Replying to FBF: Colorado artist Bobbie Carlyle also has done several excellent renditions of “The Self-made Man” (https://images.app.goo.gl/tTpj6Db7izjK2LZq7). She also has an incredible sculpture called “Sunriser” (https://images.app.goo.gl/g2KyaQKA91rDcRzy7)
Did you ask him about Joe Rogan interviewing a man who claimed that a school shooting was fake?
I love this interview and the golden nuggets!
Creativity is not in the chaos, but is within the frames we set!
Also, good insights of how CEO think and how the profession doesn’t need to be justified by the title.
Thank you for this interview, Tim!
Maybe you can make it a series and interview other CEOs?
I enjoyed your episode with Daniel Elk! Big fan here and fellow podcaster.
I was disappointed there wasn’t a discussion about artist compensation.
I have a music podcast in Boston and I am well aware of the struggle musicians and artists have in making a living. Spotify is an incredible tool and I use it myself. But the payout to artists leave much to be desired.
I heard on your episode that Daniel gave a billion euros to moonshot ideas. I love that he did that, and it is hugely important to feed fledgling ideas, causes and the like. But he has built a company on the shoulders of artists, and if artists are complaining, I would hope it would be a priority to take care of them.
I heard an interview recently where he seemed tone deaf to a musicians plight. “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.” That, I know, rubbed many the wrong way.
I do not begrudge Daniel at all for his success. But I would love to hear you talk about numbers – how an artist can have streaming be a meaningful part of their income.
What comes to mind for me is when Budweiser had a contest for an artist to write them a song for a commercial. Song became a hit. Artist got nothing other than a base pay. Budweiser spills enough money to have given the artist a leg up and give him a meaningful payout.
It is time for artists to get paid their worth. Could you bring this to Daniel if you have another interview? I would love to hear a more meaningful response rather than a sound bite. It isn’t fair to him to just blast him without a fair shake.
I appreciate what you do! Thanks for reading!
[Moderator: business name and website respectfully removed due to comment policy.]
I was wondering. Daniel Ek has the potential to create a middle class for musicians if he really wanted to. Moonshots are great, but so is being the first person in history to help artists get paid well on such a large scale. To get 100,000, you need somewhere in the range of 250 million streams in a year. To make streaming a realistically viable income source, doubling or tripling the payout would do a lot – not necessarily to make everyone six figure earners, but enough for artists to really lean into the platform. I for one would be willing to pay a couple extra bucks a month on spotify if the option was available for me and I knew all that money was going to help the artists who I love.
Appreciated this episode so much. Used to listen to Spotify regularly but never looked into its CEO… he seems so wise, like an old soul. Very cool that Spotify went public two years ago and seeing where its stock is now. Wish them continued growth. These days, I listen to Amazon music, not even sure how but have been an Amazon customer since 2001, I think… and very much a huge fan of Jeff Bezos… how he started the company, his socially conscious bent, and didn’t even know much about his marriage but was a fan of of my impression of their partnership too.
That aside, huge gratitude to Daniel Ek for making the time for the interview which provides so much value, and not just for today. In the same way that we still read Napoleon Hill, this is it happening now… the titans and titanettes. Interesting story behind his twitter handle. Wonder if he knows chef Magnus Nilsson. Watched his episode on Chef’s Table and he’s smart beyond belief. From going out in nature and breaking a portion of the surface ice from the lake and recreating this in his kitchen just blows your mind. Seemed to have found inspiration everywhere. Would be amazing to hear a conversation between the two of them exchanging ideas. Nilsson shared some Norse creation myths in the episode… would be interesting to put together a book of various creation myths from around the world.
Thanks again. “Be kind. Everyone is on their own journey.”
Thanks Tim for letting us know about Wealthfront. I jumped to the opportunity right away. But to no avail. I was interested in automated investing and I still am. I was curious about Creative Planning and Vanguard and now Wealthfront. But, all these companies work in U.S.A. only. And I live in Croatia, EU. Do you know a company that offers automated investing in EU? And if there isn’t any, now you know what the problem…. eerrrr…. opportunity is. 😉