Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek made a surprising confession in a recent post to X (formerly Twitter), where he admits not only that he didn’t come up with the idea for Spotify’s flagship feature, the streamer’s “Discover Weekly” playlist, he didn’t even understand the appeal at first when it was presented.
Instead, he says that when the team pitched the idea for “Discover Weekly,” he “wasn’t sure about it.”
“I didn’t really get why it was special,” Ek wrote on X. “But the team kept building on it and more and more people internally got excited. When we launched it, I was surprised. Turns out, our users really loved it, and today it’s one of the top features on Spotify,” Ek said.
Launched in 2015, “Discover Weekly” was an immediate success as well as a significant innovation in the use of algorithmic personalization to change the way users came across new music and artists they’d enjoy while using Spotify’s service. At the time of its arrival, Spotify’s service had only 75 million active users in total and, within less than a year, 40 million of them had engaged with the new playlist. In addition to serving as a popular discovery tool, the playlist also helped lure new users to streaming at a time when many were still purchasing their music from iTunes.
In fact, “Discover Weekly” grew so popular that it led Spotify to develop a range of personalized playlists over the years that followed, including Release Radar, Daily Mixes, and others meant to showcase the tunes you’ve loved in the past, those designed for special situations like workouts or commutes, and more, including its popular year-end retrospective Wrapped.
This trend toward personalizing the music experience has even influenced Spotify’s more recent developments like its AI DJ feature and its redesigned home feed. It’s also driven rivals like Apple Music and YouTube Music to copy from Spotify with personalized playlists of their own.
EK had shared this surprising anecdote about how he didn’t immediately understand the appeal of what later became Spotify’s flagship feature in the hopes of passing on advice to other founders about the power of listening.
“People often think founders have everything planned out from the start, but that’s at least not true for me. A lot of times, I rely on feedback from our team, customers, and partners. And I change my mind often. My job is a bit of that of a curator or producer – I’m putting together pieces of a puzzle,” Ek wrote, as part of his admission. “One of the most underrated skills we have in our society is listening. So I’m sending this tweet out in the world as a reminder to myself to work on becoming an ever better listener,” he concluded.
Ek has been posting to X in recent days to share his insights about being a founder, choices he made at Spotify in the early days, and other words he lives by. For instance, he’s shared how Spotify landed on green for its brand identity, how he carves out screen-free time for his thoughts, and more.
In one post, he also revealed his fears about being an “unreasonable” boss, battling with his need to be liked. In the post, Ek referenced a George Bernard Shaw quote that says, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”