More than anything else, Spotify is credited with turning generations of music pirates into paying (or passively paying via adverts) customers. How sustainable the world of music streaming services is still up for debate, but they certainly stumbled upon a model that appealed to vast numbers of people. And if a new book is to be believed, the company’s early days involved bringing in pirates with actual pirated music.
The book – Spotify Teardown – Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music – is co-written by Pirate Bay co-founder and member of Sweden’s Piratbyrån (piracy bureau) Rasmus Fleischer. While it won’t be released until next year, Fleischer has spoken to DiGITAL about the project, revealing some interesting tidbits along the way.
“Spotify’s beta version was originally a pirate service. It was distributing MP3 files that the employees happened to have on their hard drives,” he is quoted as saying. As TorrentFreak explains, it’s been a long-standing rumour that early Spotify used pirated music to test the service – which isn’t wholly surprising when in beta and needing a vast catalogue of music to test the proof of concept. Nonetheless, “proof” has been decidedly anecdotal – users reporting labelling that suggested music had not been officially obtained and so on.
For Fleischer’s part, he claims something more solid. He was in a band that released its album on The Pirate Bay, and shortly after it was seeded, it appeared on Spotify. “I thought that was funny. So I emailed Spotify and asked how they obtained it. They said that ‘now, during the test period, we will use music that we find’,” he recalls.
Fleischer reckons this isn’t the only way in which piracy ultimately helped Spotify in its nascent stages – he thinks it’s no coincidence that Spotify launched in 2006 – the same year that The Pirate Bay was temporarily shut down. “They would not have had as much attention if they had not been able to surf that wave. The company’s early history coincides with the Pirate Party becoming a hot topic, and the trial of the Pirate Bay in the Stockholm District Court,” he explains.
This matches closely with what Fleischer said in 2013 when talking about The Pirate Bay’s legacy: “it has helped catalyse so-called “new business models,” he told TorrentFreak. “But I would never feel the slightest bit of pride over that shit.”
The book will be coming out in early 2018, with little input from Spotify itself who Fleischer describes as “friendly, but quite dismissive.” As such, the group have used their own methods to analyse the inner workings of the music platform, including setting up their own music label to test how songs get added to the service, and creating 100 music listening bots to examine how the recommendation engine functions.