Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has been under scrutiny from musicians and consumers alike for his recent investment into Helsing, an artificial intelligence defence company based in Berlin. Helsing describe themselves as a “new type of security and artificial intelligence company”, and intend to sell their platform to militaries in Britain, France, and Germany.
The Swedish billionaire confirmed earlier this month that he had invested €100 million into the defence firm via his €1 billion investment company Prima Materia, and will be joining it’s board. Helsing is known as a leading pioneer in AI defence technology that is built to be used in military operations on the battlefield.
Many artists have spoken out about the business move. Electronic music producer Darren Sangita said: “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.”
Opium Hum, a DJ based out of Berlin, has left the platform after 15 years, tweeting: “Today, I am proud to announce that after having been a Spotify user since the beta in 2007, I canceled my account because of this, driven by a mission to help build a thriving society — which AI-powered weapons systems are most certainly not part of.”
Sameer Gupta, a percussionist and composer based out of Brooklyn, has also urged his followers to quit their subscriptions and move to the streaming service Bandcamp instead. He is now offering up his entire discography on the platform with a 95 per cent discount from its original pricing.
Last year, Ek said that he planned on investing €1 billion of his fortune into European “moonshoots”, he said: “Europe needs more super companies, both for the ecosystem to develop and thrive. But I think more importantly if we’re going to have any chance to tackle the infinitely complex problems that our societies are dealing with at the moment, we need different stakeholders, including companies, governments, academic institutions, nonprofits and investors of all kinds to work together”.
Helsing’s CEO, Torsten Reil said: “Daniel has proven that it is possible to build a world-leading company in a new sector at scale in Europe. Not many people have proven that, Daniel desensitises you to large numbers quite quickly because of the size of Spotify. He gives you permission to think big.”