“With the cost of creating content being close to zero, people can share an incredible amount of content” – Spotify CEO Daniel Ek shares his point of view on making music

Author Benedetta Baldin - 3.6.2024

It looks like creating content is essentially free. In this case, the content is music. It’s all quite affordable—going to the studio is essentially free, purchasing any equipment or software is essentially free, and mixing and mastering is essentially free! Who knew? Or at least that’s according to Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify. Ek stated that he thinks the cost of “creating content” is “close to zero” these days in a single tweet. It is incorrect on several counts, chief among them being that music (as well as podcasts, films, etc.) is not and should not be considered “content.” It’s a product of true human labour. Second, depending on how you approach it, creating music yourself can be less expensive, but claiming that the cost is nearly free is not realistic.

Today, with the cost of creating content being close to zero, people can share an incredible amount of content. This has sparked my curiosity about the concept of long shelf life versus short shelf life. While much of what we see and hear quickly becomes obsolete, there are timeless ideas or even pieces of music that can remain relevant for decades or even centuries. For example, we’re witnessing a resurgence of Stoicism, with many of Marcus Aurelius’s insights still resonating thousands of years later. This makes me wonder: what are the most unintuitive, yet enduring ideas that aren’t frequently discussed today but might have a long shelf life? Also, what are we creating now that will still be valued and discussed hundreds or thousands of years from today? Daniel Ek

This is a very utopistic statement. Making art and music involves a lot of financial outlays for both material and immaterial costs. Artists frequently make substantial financial investments in equipment, supplies, and training. Instruments, recording gear, and studio time are necessities for musicians, yet these things can be extremely costly. Similar to this, visual artists require workplace expenses in addition to equipment like paints, canvases, and digital tools. Furthermore, pursuing education and training—whether via traditional schooling or independent study—often necessitates a sizable financial investment. The idea that making art is free ignores these out-of-pocket expenses as well as the financial strains that artists frequently experience in order to produce their work.

Beyond only the money, making music and other works of art requires a significant time and emotional commitment. Artists spend endless hours practising, polishing, and honing their craft—often at the price of personal time and other chances. The emotional cost can be high since significant art demands a great deal of vulnerability and insight. Self-doubt and the pressure to live up to expectations from others and from oneself are common obstacles in the creative process. The commitment and love that artists put into their work are undervalued when these initiatives are written off as free, neglecting to acknowledge the real cost of artistic expression.