Episode 1 of The Playlist starts with us introduced to the creator of Spotify, Daniel Ek. He senses that music is in for a digital revolution and wants to be at the forefront of that change. We’re in Ragsved, 2004, and Daniel eagerly awaits to hear back from Google. He’s applied to their branch in California.
Daniel receives a reply and it’s a no. They decline him on the basis of him not having a university degree. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially as he tries to get his revenge by figuring out Google’s algorithm and helping Tradera (the company he’s currently working for) to become the top results on Google without paying for ads. Tradera aren’t too happy, and in the end Daniel decides to walk out.
That itch to become more and do more is still there, even after creating a small business and selling it for a tidy profit. And interestingly, little things around him bring him back to music.
After struggling to download songs off Pirate Bay, Daniel approaches businessman Martin Lorentzon with a revolutionary idea. Given Pirate Bay lives by its ads and has a terrible interface, Daniel suggests they put their knowledge of ads and business together to create something that’ll change the face of music forever.
The idea of a streaming service is foreign to those in the industry, who believe that he needs to apply for a radio licence and even worse, needs to go the individual record labels to try and get the rights to play their music.
With the team working on a prototype but money running out, Daniel and Martin realize they have a tough mountain to climb, especially with Sony Music Sweden cracking down on Pirate Bay for their illegal activities. Daniel Ek tries to speak to Per Sundin, the president of that branch.
After receiving a tip-off from his friend Bobbi, who happens to be a musician, Daniel pitches the idea to Per outside, telling him he knows how to save the music industry, and that comes from free music. It certainly strikes a nerve with Per Sundin though, who tells Daniel that if he pursues this he’ll come down on him like a ton of bricks. After telling him to get a job, Sundin gets in his car and drives off.
Daniel Ek is not taking no for an answer, and realizes that the future lies with the youth instead. He heads to the local school and begins handing out cards, telling them how to download Spotify. Per Sundin is there to collect his son from school, and he faces the camera, telling us that’s not how this happened.
The Episode Review
We’ve seen a good number of biographical dramas recently, with last year’s The Billion Dollar Code and this year’s WeCrashed (to name a few), there’s an interesting and eye-opening examination of these different industries and how they came about. The Playlist then, turns the attention across to Spotify and how it came about.
The first episode takes aim at the changing wave of music that’s swept the world, right off the back of Pirate Bay and Napster’s crazy success. The script is well written, there’s some lovely dialogue and the pacing is pretty much on the money too. If this is a sign of things to come, the rest of the show should be quite the entertaining watch.