Spotify users and artists have responded to CEO Daniel Ek‘s large investment in AI defense tech company, Helsing. Early in November Spotify’s CEO Ek announced the investment into the British/German company, whose technology will initially be sold to the French, British and German militaries. As part of the deal, Ek is also joining Helsing’s board.
When asked, Helsing said the technology about the use of the technology – “world-leading AI technology for defense and national security” to provide “information advantage for democratic governments” and “keep liberal democracies from harm.”
The deal has angered some Spotify users, who responded to Ek’s tweet by closing accounts and jumping ship to competitors like Bandcamp and Tidal. Some supported the hashtag campaign to #BoycottSpotify. Ambient dub fusion music producer Darren Sangita was among them.
Today, I am proud to announce that @PrimaMateria_ is investing €100m in @HelsingAI & that I am joining the board.— Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) November 9, 2021
Prima Materia was founded to partner with teams like Helsing. Ambitious, ethical, & driven by a mission to help build a thriving society.https://t.co/46XsanjlLx
“AI means using computers to process information a hundred times faster so they accurately deliver a higher kill ratio,” Sangita told Resident Advisor. “Music is being used as a weapon. I can’t sign up to that, so I’ve already unsubscribed and now plan to take all my music down from Spotify […] We believe in music as a powerful tool for peace, otherwise it’s a complete contradiction of our music philosophy.” According to software data company Pitchbrook, Helsing will “develop software comprising artificial intelligence to integrate data from infrared, video, sonar and radio frequencies, gleaned from sensors on military vehicles, to create a real-time picture of battlefields, enabling clients to execute faster and more reliable decisions.” Independent cyber security expert and content delivery advisor Maurizio Monti told RA what this means. “They’re saying they will consolidate a huge amount of information, process it a billion times faster, then apply it to information captured by tanks, drones and satellites to reach battlefield conclusions in seconds instead of weeks,” he said.
#BoycottSPOTIFY now! Cancel your subscription today. Artists and music lovers must not support the military #AI industry! Register your anger at the #Spotify involvement in sponsorship of Arms Corporations. This is so vile. Music is NOT War! Just wrong on every level. https://t.co/5k4Wnv6zj0— Darren Sangita (@darrensangita) November 22, 2021
Users have been unhappy with Spotify for sometime now. Spotify’s estimated worth is around $36 billion which does not sit well with artists. Most feel they should get a bigger cut from the streaming giant in the way of royalties. “Many have switched to platforms like Tidal. “This shows that money will start filtering towards Spotify’s competitors,” Sangita added. “I want to see them lose $100 million because they need to see consumer choice is powerful and dangerous to their business model.”
Spotify’s huge share in the streaming market makes it difficult for labels to pull content from the streaming giants platform. This only may save Spotify from any proposed boycott.