“The Playlist” tells the untold story behind the streaming service “Spotify”
Swedish tech entrepreneur Daniel Ek wants to revolutionize the music industry with a streaming platform. But the road ahead will be difficult. Coding and server problems aside, Ek and his team at Spotify need to face the giants of the industry, as well as, their artists, to achieve their ultimate goal: free music for all.
Yeah, the series sounded like the “Social Network,” a story about a successful app from its inception. There are however glaring differences if we compare this to the popular film. These divergences, if you may, from linear storytelling makes “The Playlist” engaging and interesting.
“The Playlist,” inspired by Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud’s “Spotify Untold,” is about the creation of the popular music streaming site. Each episode of the series focused on a certain individual connected around the creation of Spotify.
Episode 1, “The Vision,” is about CEO Daniel Ek, played by Edvin Endre (Studentfesten). The details of how Ek thought of Spotify are very limited. It instead focused on the difficulties of launching the app amid the music industry’s battle against Pirate Bay. I think that it is a missed opportunity, especially for geeks. I mean, give us more details of a flowchart at the very least. Endre is perfect as Ek. His transformation into this aloof geek is stunning.
The detailed process, the exciting bits about the coding part, is instead delegated to the episode about its CTO Andreas Ehn (Joel Lützow) in episode 4, “The Coder.” This is by far my favorite episode. It fits because unlike Facebook where the CEO is the original coder, Spotify really is the creation of Ehn. Don’t fight me about this. It narrates how Ehn struggled to maintain the integrity of the app (which is music must be free for all) amid the realities in the music industry. The audience will appreciate the difficulties Ehn went through. Like his clash with Ek regarding buffers and proxy servers. Ek wants it fast but on a P2P. Sadistic. I really connected with Ehn which says a lot about Lützow’s performance, especially in the part when he says the line “I was always the nerd. I tried…I had to learn to accept that people like me, we don’t have friends. I just fantasized that I would find my gang. People who were on the same wavelength as me.”
Another interesting part of the series is “The Law,” in episode 3. It details how Spotify navigated the complex law about music rights and the battle against the old dogmas persisting in the music industry (calling Taylor Swift). It also narrates how Spotify Premium was thought of, which is cool. The storyline is just the same as in Episode 2 “The Industry,” but from a different perspective. Ulf Stenberg’s performance as Per Sundin, the Sony Music Sweden executive, is also commendable.
Episode 5 “The Partner” just delved into how Spotify co-founder Martin Lorentzon is a different/weird person (translation: genius) and how it became a reason for his axing from Spotify. To really dig to the point, they’ve introduced us to another weirdo, Peter Thiel of PayPal. “I’ve taken a lot of adversity throughout my life because of who I am. But that has also taught me that I can’t be anyone else.” Episode 6 “The Artist” is all fiction, to show the company’s dilemma with artists.
I don’t speak Swedish but it was a delight to hear the original audio once in a while, to really connect with the actors (but I prefer the English subtitle and English audio, thank you). It’s also fun to watch the Pirate Bay’s battle against the music companies (Valter Skarsgård, brother of Alexander Skarsgård, plays Peter Sunde).
(Sun god Worthy. 4 out of 5 stars). The series presents diverging POVs and narrations of what truly happened during the creation of Spotify. It gives credence to its story. “The Playlist” presents some of the untold stories behind the popular music streaming app. It might not be the cup of tea for some, but this, I would say, is one hell of a series.
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