Spotify may have had a multi-year head start on Apple Music, but Apple’s music streaming service has impressively managed to make up a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time. Last we heard, Spotify a few weeks back said that their service boasts 180 million cumulative users and 83 million paid subscribers. Apple Music, meanwhile, enjoys a base of 50 million paid subscribers. That’s a seemingly wide gap, but Apple Music by all accounts appears to be growing at a faster clip, prompting some to speculate that it’s only a matter of time before Apple Music eclipses Spotify.

With Apple and Spotify currently battling it out for the music streaming crown, Fast Company’s Robert Safian over the past few months managed to get some face time with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and delve into his thoughts regarding the state of the music streaming industry and much more. Further, Safian’s profile on Ek provides us with an interesting look at how Spotify managed to become the influential behemoth it is today.

Interestingly, Spotify’s objective from the very beginning was to take on Apple head-on. Though perhaps an odd statement at first glance, recall that iTunes in the mid to late 2000’s absolutely dominated the digital music landscape thanks to the popularity of iTunes.

As to why Spotify has enjoyed so much success against all odds, Ek boils it down to a laser-like focus.

“Music is everything we do all day, all night, and that clarity is the difference between the average and the really, really good,” Ek explains.

Ever calm, Ek believes it’s this singularity of purpose that will help him defy all the skeptics, from those who believe he can’t beat Apple to those who think that there’s no difference between the streaming music services to those who can’t imagine Ek ever overcoming the high licensing fees he gives back to the record business.

Notably, Safian also managed to spend some time with Tim Cook who boasted about Apple’s curated music offerings. Hardly a surprise, Apple has positioned its curated playlists as a point of differentiation between Apple Music and Spotify.

“We worry about the humanity being drained out of music,” Cook said, “about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”

Safian’s full piece is full of interesting details and can be read in its entirety over here.

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