At 13, he earned 50,000 dollars a month: Swedish Daniel Ek created Spotify and became a multi-billionaire

It was what the gossip press called ‘a star studded event’. Big stars in expensive robes mingled on the large terrace. Bruno Mars was hired to sing, Chris Rock to entertain.

“We are at Lake Como in northern Italy to celebrate the wedding of our good friends,” wrote Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a post under a photo of himself, his wife Priscilla and a bald man. Posing in front of the lake.

“Many people know Daniel as one of the great European contractors. I know him as a very good friend and dedicated father,’ he added.

The friend? Swedish Daniel Ek.

In 2019, Daniel Ek was presented with a medal by the Swedish royal couple. Here he is seen on the big day with his wife, Sofia, and the couple’s daughter.
Photo: Scanpix

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There is a high probability that you have no idea who he is. If you do, it’s probably because you’ve seen the Netflix series ‘The Playlist’.

But you no doubt know the icon: The green circle. With the three horizontal lines.

At least 381 million people do.

Daniel Ek is the man behind the music service Spotify. He, some call the hero who saved music. Other him who killed it. The one who is good for 12 billion kroner.

That in 2016 he could hold a lavish wedding at a castle on Lake Como – where stars such as George Clooney and Madonna have holiday residences – hardly many of Daniel Ek’s old friends had seen coming in the dawn of time.

In any case, the glamorous location was miles away from Rågsved, the rather dreary suburb of Stockholm that Daniel Ek comes from.

Here he grew up as an introverted geek. The kind who preferred his computer’s company.

According to a rare interview with Forbes Magazine, Daniel Ek was also only five years old when he got his first from his stepfather. A Commodore 20.

A few years later, he sat expertly making codes for his first programming while MTV played in the background, and in 1996 – at the age of 13 – he started making websites for clients.

100 dollars paid the first.

The market quickly exploded. And soon the schoolboy Daniel Ek earned 50,000 dollars a month.

Young Daniel Ek had no doubt that the new burgeoning digital world was the future. And it fascinated him.

Along with getting jobs out in the real world, every penny he earned was invested in more computers and servers.

So many that he according to Forbes had to sit in his underpants in his room because of the enormous amount of heat they gave off.

Despite his obvious talent, Daniel Ek was turned down for a job at internet giant Google. In defiance, he threw himself into search optimization, and soon he had developed a program so effective that, at the age of 23, he was able to sell it for two million dollars.

Suddenly the nerd from Rågsved was a millionaire.

“I was convinced that I wanted to become a much cooler guy than I was,” describes Daniel Ek in Forbes the slump he got after the sale.

Because the Ferrari, the luxury apartment and the access to the hottest nightclubs in Stockholm did not make him happier or a different and better version of himself.

He sold everything, moved into a cabin in the woods near his parents and took his life in review. Plunged into his old love of music.

But it was a very special partnership that created the foundation on which Daniel Ek still stands.


Few people know Daniel Ek.  But the icon in the background is familiar to most people.

Few people know Daniel Ek. But the icon in the background is familiar to most people.
Photo: TORU YAMANAKA

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He started hanging out with the founder of the company that bought his program, the successful businessman Martin Lorentzon.

Despite their great human differences, the chemistry was unique. So unique that they chose to combine the rags.

At first they had no idea about what. But once it was there, it lit a holy fire in both of them. Free online music for the people.

The aim was, through collaboration with the music industry, to create an advertising-financed platform that could drive the ‘pirates’ out of the market.

A goal that was by no means without problems.

The music industry was not on board with the digital beat, and the couple had to spend years lighting the fire in the beleaguered industry.

But in October 2008 it succeeded. Spotify was a reality.

According to Forbes’ latest list, the music service today has more than 381 million active users, almost half of whom are paying subscribers.

And the now 39-year-old Daniel Ek has become a rich man. A very rich man who is good for 1.6 billion dollars. Around DKK 12 billion.

‘The most powerful man in the music business’ Billboard proclaimed him to in 2017.

But it has not been without sword strikes.


In 2014, pop star Taylor Swift chose to withdraw all her music from Spotify.

In 2014, pop star Taylor Swift chose to withdraw all her music from Spotify.
Photo: VALERIE MACON

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For example, in 2014 pop star Taylor Swift chose to pull her entire song catalog from the service in protest. A decision that, however, did not last longer than 2017.

Others have been more persistent in their criticism of the service. Especially lesser-known artists who are not taken into account in Spotify’s algorithm. A criticism which the mastermind has rejected again and again.

But even he has been accommodated. Has become so rich and such a great cannon for giving the people free music that big stars made a pilgrimage to Lake Como when he married his Sofia back in 2016.

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