Is Spotify a Harbinger of Our Robot/AI-Dominated Future?

Spotify is about to go public, and it may be valued at as much as $23 billion. Its founders are about to become filthy rich. Record companies won’t do too shabby either.

The major record labels also own minority stakes in the company, as a result of licensing deals struck over the years. Sony has the largest, with 5.7 percent; the others were not disclosed.

And musicians? Most popular musicians are still making so little from streaming that their main source of income is from touring.

This is why future fights over who has a seat at the table — and therefore gets to decide how staggering amounts of wealth are divvied up — is going to be absolutely critical in the era of ubiquitous robots, AI, and other emerging tech. There’s no question our society is going to end up with an unprecedented bounty. What’s up for grabs: whether our society will ensure everyone has a real chance at enough of a slice of that bounty to live a good life, and whether our democracy survives.


Update: this piece is not an attack on Spotify. I listen to Spotify almost every day. And although I’m sure there are problems unique to Spotify, given the current rules of the road almost any music streaming service that became dominant would have most of the same core issues. This is a structural problem. If you treat it like the problem is just one “corrupt” company, you are letting yourself be played for a sucker.

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