Maria Eriksson, Rasmus Fleischer, Anna Johansson, Pelle Snickars, and Patrick Vonderau – Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262038904, English, 288 pages, 2018, USA

We might attempt to place Spotify historically as the most recent milestone in the universal digitalisation of music after Napster, iTunes and the iPod/iPhone. But the major shift with Spotify is not just finding the winning formula of a technical paradigm (streaming after downloading) but what the dispossession of music implies in streaming. This book documents an important scientific research project involving the dissection (or ‘teardown’) of the Spotify model, undertaken with a proportionate and contemporary approach. The researchers, in fact, wanted to question the company’s identity as a high tech one, finally qualifying it for what it is: a “media company that sells audiences to advertisers” or a “private data broker“, similarly to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They received a substantial amount of public funding to do it, and investigated all the companies’ major controversial aspects, including the shadow creation of non-existent authors and labels in order to create ad-hoc music, the ‘refashioning’ of files, and the exploitation of the links between music choices and personality traits. Spotify’s black boxes has been entered using bots, or small software scripts, provoking a legal threat by them. Spotify complexity, including its remunerative dedicated third-party playlist services for example, becomes progressively understandable, together with the company’s ‘asymmetrical cultural power’.