Netflix's 'The Playlist' Tells the Story of Spotify's Rise — How Accurate Is It?

"The Playlist" is available to stream on Netflix. It tells the story of how Spotify came to be and take over audio streaming. Is the docuseries based on a true story?

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Oct. 21 2022, Published 12:33 p.m. ET

The Playlist on Netflix
Source: Netflix

Fans can’t seem to get enough of biopics and docuseries based on the rise (and often, the fall) of major corporations. A new Swedish television series on Netflix, The Playlist, is available now for streaming and offers a close-up view of how the company came to be.

Naturally, viewers want to know, is The Playlist based on a true story?

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The Playlist is a Netflix show detailing the creation of Spotify, now the biggest audio streaming firm in the world. But as with any show based on a true story, you might wonder whether the writers took any liberties with the facts.

If you’ve already viewed The Playlist or plan to soon, here’s more on the origin of the docuseries.

'The Playlist' focuses on how Spotify got started and took over music streaming.

martin lorentzon playlist spotify
Source: Netflix

Christian Hillborg as Martin Lorentzon in 'The Playlist.'

Spotify was launched by Swedish entrepreneurs Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon on April 23, 2006. Lorentzon served as its chief executive in the early years, and Ek took over the CEO role in 2013.

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Spotify changed the way that artists promote their work. A vast library of audio content on the platform is free to stream, especially music and podcasts. Free versions will often include advertising, and a paid subscription upgrade removes ads and provides exclusive content. (It’s much like Netflix’s new payment plan, in which the cheapest plan will now include ads.)

'The Playlist' shows different viewpoints on Spotify’s creation.

The Playlist is based on the true story of how Spotify was created and became a music streaming powerhouse, although parts of the docuseries were likely dramatized.

The Guardian published a review of The Playlist that explains the unique format of the show. Rather than one unified storyline, the show includes six episodes, “all told from the perspective of someone integral to Spotify’s success.”

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daniel ek playlist netflix
Source: Netflix

Evin Endre as Daniel Ek in 'The Playlist.'

Episode one focuses on Ek, who’s played by Edvin Endre. According to The Guardian, the entire episode shows Ek's frustrations at being trapped in an unsatisfying job and channeling the frustration into creating Spotify. However, other episodes may contradict aspects of the initial telling of how Spotify came to be.

Other episodes center around people like a coder, a music executive, a lawyer, and a financial expert. Given this structure, it stands to reason that as with any narrative, the truth depends on who’s telling the story.

Although The Playlist is obviously grounded in facts about the company, people interpret those facts differently if they were involved.

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The book 'Spotify Untold' is the inspiration for the Netflix series.

playlist netflix
Source: Netflix

Gizem Erdogan as Petra Hansson in 'The Playlist.'

Written by Swedish business reporters Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, the book used source interviews with over 70 individuals including Spotify executives, investors, record company heads, and competitors.

According to an interview with Variety, the authors didn't have any contributions by Ek or Spotify itself, largely because the company was embroiled in a legal battle with Apple during the book’s writing.

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The message of the book was also altered by Netflix producers to create a further fictionalized depiction of Spotify’s creation. The author Leijonhufvud called the book “an exciting David-and-Goliath story” in which Ek “beats Apple at their own game.”

Whether the series is completely fictionalized or not, fans are loving the Netflix series.

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"I'm convinced that The Playlist on @netflix is the best original I have seen on the platform in a while," one person tweeted, before another added, "Everyone in the music business and entrepreneurs generally should watch The Playlist series on Netflix."

A third chimed in, "The Playlist on Netflix — a dramatisation of the founding of Spotify — is pretty great. Not sure why more people aren't talking about it."

Watch The Playlist on Netflix now.


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