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New era for Spotify. Daniel Ek: “We are only in the second inning.”


Daniel Ek, founder and CEO of Spotify, has often been quoted taking the long view of the streaming music industry, and the destiny of his company. Today is a milestone in Spotify’s business history, as SPOT begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Memorializing the moment, Ek posted a letter on his company’s internal blog. “We are only in the second inning,” he said.

Spotify is entering the open investor market as a direct listing, unstructured by the usual array of finance institutions setting price and stabilizing the early trading. Accordingly, many pundits are predicting volatility as the stock finds it natural price level. Spotify hopes to see a minimum market value of $20-billion. The NYSE set an opening price of $132 per share.

UPDATE: at 2:20pm ET today, SPOT was priced at $155, after opening at $165.90. Nearly 20-million shares had been traded. No market cap had been determined.

As a public company, Spotify’s financial and business details will be illuminated in the quarterly drumbeat of SEC filings and investor calls. As such, Spotify will become as transparent as Pandora is, giving observers a fuller grasp of the business dynamics in streaming music.

In Daniel Ek’s company messaging, he acknowledged today’s importance while emphasizing the future. “It’s the day after, and the following day that matters — and all those days to come,” he said. (All those quarterly reports to come, also.) “Our focus isn’t on the initial splash. Instead, we will be working on trying to build, plan, and imagine for the long term,” Ek said.

From an investor standpoint, the future is about achieving better margins, in cost equations that depend on Spotify’s relationships with labels and musicians. (See Peter Kafka’s analysis at Re/code.) Spotify has never been bottom-line profitable. The more streams it delivers to its 157-million listeners, the greater the cost in royalties to music owners. This unfavorable equation has led some to speculate that Spotify will build out an original slate of music programming. That could work similarly to the Netflix model in which original programming provides the high-margin attraction, surrounded by movie studio catalog.

Whatever the future holds, today initiates a distinct era for Spotify, the world’s preeminent online music service.

Brad Hill

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