The playlist: key information
– Premieres on Netflix on October 13
– Directed by Per-Olav Sørensen
– Written by Christian Spurrier of Silk
– Made by the same company as Young Wallander for Netflix
– Six episodes
– Swedish with subtitles and US dub available
– Vikings’ Edvin Endre and The Last Kingdom’s Christian Hillborg take on key roles
We’re so used to seeing real-life sagas turned into prestige TV shows now that whenever a political scandal, shocking court case, or conglomerate demise occurs, many of us are already thinking about the drama to come. how events unfold. The unspoken rule of waiting years for all sides of a story to be told no longer applies.
Elizabeth Holmes has yet to be sentenced for her crimes in the Theranos scandal, but she’s already had her own miniseries with Hulu’s The Dropout. Anna Delvey is still in prison for her large-scale fraud, but her infamy has already been put on display with Inventing Anna. And Mark Zuckerberg is about to get his second big-name biopic when Showtime’s Super Pumped focuses on Facebook, having recently told Uber’s origin story.
The fact that we are so used to seeing these stories also means that our standards have gone up. For every brilliant retelling, like David Fincher’s masterful look at Zuckerberg on The Social Network, you get Apple TV Plus’s WeCrashed, a brilliant, expensive, but ultimately empty drama that turned into a cartoon from its opening scenes. Regardless of how compelling the characters seem on paper, however outrageous their exploits, and the gigantic consequences of their actions, you still need to get the basics right. The story needs to be concise, intriguing and well-paced, and you need momentum from the start.
All of which makes the accomplishments of the cast and creative team behind Netflix’s new drama The Playlist, about the creation of Spotify, even more remarkable because it’s the best drama this writer has seen in 2022.
Hitting all the right notes
The playlist is adapted from Spotify Untold, a 2021 book by Swedish investigative journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, or, to give its full title, The Spotify Play: How CEO and Founder Daniel Ek Beat Apple, Google, and Amazon in the Race for Audio Mastery. Spanning six episodes, the show chronicles the streaming service’s journey from the mind of founder Daniel Ek to, at last count, 433 million users, including 188 million paying subscribers, in 183 different countries with almost $ 10 billion in annual revenue.
In the 15 years since its launch, the music service has become synonymous with online streaming. Going to Spotify to listen to music is as common as opening Google to search for something online. Apple fans may prefer Apple Music, audiophiles may argue that Tidal has a superior listening experience, but in terms of numbers, they’re the scruffy record store on a quiet street, and Spotify is the giant shopping mall where your parents, grandparents and all her friends do all her shopping. He is a true giant. But how did it get there?
The Playlist, which wants to emphasize that it is a fictional account of what happened, traces the origins of Spotify. At first, founder Daniel Ek is bored. The IT wunderkind, who made $50,000 a month by the time he was 18, such was his ability to build websites and had enough money to retire at 22 after selling Advertigo, is spending his money and not doing much else.
In the background, The Pirate Bay, the Swedish site that allowed users to search, download and upload whatever they wanted, meaning a huge number of songs and movies were shared, is being taken to court, under pressure from important figures of Sweden. music industry.
Ek sees an opportunity. Clean up the experience to create a fast, easy-to-use, dynamic music player that doesn’t require users to have files on their own devices. He pitches the idea to businessman Martin Lorentzon, the man who bought his latest business. Together they recruit an excellent team of programmers and designers and set out to change the world. The problem is that the music industry doesn’t want to play ball and won’t give them access to their songs, rendering the service virtually useless. We see how the battle to win hearts and minds and open wallets begins.
a change of pace
The instinct when writer Christian Spurrier, whose credits include such procedurals as Spooks and Silent Witness, sat down to transform Carlsson and Leijonhufvud’s book for the screen, must have been to build everything around Ek. To delve into the character of the man who turned the music industry upside down, to find his insecurities, just as Aaron Sorkin did with Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg when he left him alone in a meeting room and sent him a friend request to Rooney Mara’s Erica Albright, the ex-girlfriend whose dumping propelled him into action.
Aspiring tech billionaires are a gift to screenwriters. He is the hooded rebel in a room full of suits, yawning and throwing paper airplanes while the grown-ups talk about intellectual property, constant source of tantrums and outbursts of righteousness, endless source of conflict.
Ek, who is now worth between two and three billion and made an offer to buy Arsenal Football Club last year, plays that role to a degree. He is brash, often obnoxious, and very short with members of his staff. His disdain for the big music industry comes through in a series of explosive meetings, but he’s not the focus of it all.
That is the strong point of the series. We look at the Spotify story from six perspectives. We first follow Ek, the surly tech genius with no social skills. We then see through the eyes of industry figures, specifically Per Sundin, the CEO of Sony Music and later Universal Music in Sweden, and then episodes of Lorentzon, key lawyer Petra Hansson, coding wunderkind Andreas Ehn and singer Bobbi T.
Each episode ends with the passing of the baton to the next key player, continuing the momentum of the story. Everyone gets the spotlight, everyone gets their lone friend request, and everyone adds their individual flavor to the show. He’s a constant cheerleader and a very clever Spurrier trick, turning material so dry it would spontaneously catch fire in a series of endless juicy morsels.
get to the choir
One of Spurrier and director Per-Olav Sørensen’s key achievements with The Playlist is ensuring that the stakes are high as the narrative unfolds. Time is ticking and money is running out, and all the while the key players are wrestling with their demons. Ek is desperate for Spotify to take control of the music industry and democratize music itself. Hansson is betting his legal career on trying to get Spotify off the ground. And Lorentzon is just trying to get the biggest payday possible, while he keeps the zealous egos of young programmers in check.
As a viewer, it’s hard to imagine why you would care about Ehn’s battle to stop player buffering or Sundin’s push to keep Sony Music from going under for illegal downloads, but that’s the charm of The Playlist. It drags you effortlessly.
In the build-up to The Social Network, the whole debate about the movie was that the only thing more boring than Facebook itself was the prospect of a movie about it. At first glance, The Playlist had the potential to be on par with drying paint, but its cast and creative team have crafted a taut, smart, perfectly paced drama out of the drier subject matter.
Just as Spotify itself makes a big marketing move about discovering music you would never have gotten close to in a record store, The Playlist is drama without fantasy that deserves the widest possible audience. It will grab you from the opening scene and by the end of each episode you will find yourself googling who these people are and where they are now. Then, with that question answered, you’ll move on to the next episode and curse the fact that there are only six to enjoy.
The playlist launches on Netflix on October 13.