The Playlist: true story of ‘fictionalised’ Netflix Spotify drama series, what is the music streaming service?

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The Playlist is a biographical drama series about the men who founded Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service

Netflix limited series The Playlist is a six-part drama about Martin Lorentzon and Daniel Ek, software developers who created Spotify, a music streaming service today used by millions of subscribers every day. The series landed on Netflix today (13 October) and tells a dramatised story of the pair’s mission to change the face of the music industry.

Edvin Endre as Daniel Ek in The PlaylistEdvin Endre as Daniel Ek in The Playlist
Edvin Endre as Daniel Ek in The Playlist | COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Is The Playlist a true story?

Yes, The Playlist is based on a true story, but the series is not as historically accurate as some shows, and is itself billed as a fictionalised representation of events. The series is heavily based on the book Spotify Untold, which was written by Swedish business reporters Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud.

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The reporters’ book is a work of nonfiction, and focuses on Martin and Daniel’s efforts to launch Spotify in the US in the face of massive opposition from competitors Apple and Microsoft, and the music industry. The book is based on a wealth of interviews and the reporters’ knowledge of the industry which they have written about since Spotify’s inception.

However, the series will completely stick to the source material, as the series goes its own way, injecting added drama into real-world events, and even creating new characters to drive the plot. This is not unlike other tech biographic shows such as Apple TV+’s WeCrashed starring Jared Leto, and Amazon Prime Video’s Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Janice Kavander as fictional character Bobbi TJanice Kavander as fictional character Bobbi T
Janice Kavander as fictional character Bobbi T | Johan Bergmark

The main thrust of the story sees Daniel Ek, an extremely successful but bored tech whizz who sees an opportunity to take on internet piracy as The Pirate Bay is taken to court. He plans to launch a music sharing service that is both legal and popular. Martin Lorenzo joins his team and together they recruit a team of developers to build what will become Spotify.

One of the characters that is entirely fictional is Bobbi T, a soul singer who speaks out publicly about Spotify’s exploitative business model - she says that her music is streamed hundreds of thousands of times a month on the platform, yet she isn’t making enough money to pay rent. Bobbi’s character may be fictional, but the character is played by Janice Kavander, a real Swedish pop and soul singer.

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Kavander told Vogue Scandinavia: “She’s not just one singer, she represents several artists: the big ones, the small ones, the up-and-coming, the ones that thrive and also the ones that want to fight for their passion. Spotify can truly change someone’s life and career, but it’s kind of sad that it’s now a lot about the numbers and what playlist you’re on… it can lose the real essence of music.”

What is Spotify?

Spotify is one of the biggest music streaming platforms in the world - it has a library of roughly 70 million songs and more than 2 million playlists. The platform has more than 400 million unique monthly users and 188 million subscribers. The app has been downloaded more than one billion times.

Spotify has been criticised for exploiting artists - it pays musicians just $0.003 - $0.005 per stream on average, although this does work at a 70-30 split in the artist’s favour. At the high end of this pay scale, artists would need to have their song streamed 200,000 times to make $1,000.

Drake is the most streamed artist on spotify, with more than 50 billion streams, and is estimated to have made more than $210 million in royalties - but for smaller artists, it is much harder to profit from their work.

When is The Playlist on Netflix?

The Playlist is a six-part miniseries - all episodes were released on Netflix on 13 October and are available to watch now.

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