Viral posts attribute fabricated comment demeaning South Asians to Spotify CEO

Agency representing Spotify in Pakistan terms reports as ‘incorrect’

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Claim: Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has said that South Asians love music but it’s “not easy to make South Asians pay” as they “want it for free only.”

Fact: Ek did not make any such comment. The quote being attributed to him is “incorrect”, according to Asiatic Public Relations Network, the communications and public relations agency for Spotify in Pakistan.

On 21 November 2021, an image featuring Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and a comment about South Asians allegedly uttered by him started circulating on the Internet.

The visual was originally shared by the website Startup Pakistan on its social media platforms, along with its logo and web address and the headline: “It’s Not Easy to Make South Asians Pay, They Love Music Want it For Free OnlY: Says Spotify CEO.” Startup Pakistan also posted a web article titled: “It’s difficult to get South Asians to pay; they love music and simply want it for free, according to Spotify’s CEO.”

The report immediately went viral and was taken up by multiple other news outlets. As of publishing time, the story is no longer visible on Startup Pakistan’s website. However, it is still up on a website called Tech & Biz.

Soch Fact Check ran a CrowdTangle analysis to examine the virality of the news using three search terms:
● “It’s not easy to make South Asians pay, they love music want it for free only”
● “difficult to get south asians to pay they love music and simply want it for free”
● “spotify south asians”

The analysis showed that the news received over 35,700 interactions across 39 Facebook posts, while more than 405,000 interactions were observed across just 19 posts on Instagram.

The Facebook posts by ‘Startup Pakistan,’ ‘Marketing Mind,’ ‘Adcave,’ and ‘Dekhlo’ were shared 3,600 times, 92 times, 76 times, and 41 times, respectively. Similarly, posts in various groups — such as here and here — also garnered significant attention.

One Facebook user went as far as to criticise what they assumed were CEO Ek’s comments and wrote: “Mr. CEO! Our prime minister brings relief money even from the countries that are in debt themselves. Demanding [money] from a nation whose habit is to borrow and continue borrowing is offensive. When complaining isn’t justified, you’re being stubborn!”

The visual in question was also shared in a number of posts on Twitter. Two posts were by accounts titled ‘Startup Pakistan’ but with different handles — @PakStartup and @StartupPak1 — while another separate tweet gained significant traction (over 300 comments and more than 16,000 likes). An Indian account named ‘Guru’ also shared the visual.

Soch Fact Check was unable to find any authentic news source attributing the comment in question to Ek, nor was there any mention of such a comment in press releases by the Swedish audio streaming company.

Soch Fact Check also reached out to Spotify to verify if the comment in question was in fact made by Ek. The communications and public relations agency for Spotify in Pakistan, Asiatic Public Relations Network, said in an email to Soch Fact Check that “the news item on Twitter flagged is incorrect”.

“This item was taken up by our team a few days ago and the article on the platform of Startup Pakistan was removed,” a senior official confirmed on behalf of Spotify in the email.

Conclusion: The comment allegedly made by Spotify CEO Daniel EK about South Asians being unwilling to pay for music services is fabricated. Ek did not say it was “not easy to make South Asians pay” or that South Asians want music “for free only”.

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