Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Speaks Out on Dispute With Apple Over App Store Policies

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek elaborated on his company's complaint against Apple with the European Commission in a speech today at the International Conference on Competition in Berlin, according to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.


Spotify has accused Apple of unfairly applying its 30 percent App Store commission. While a 70-30 revenue split applies to most apps, including Spotify, others like Uber and Deliveroo are exempt since Apple's commission does not apply to "goods or services that will be consumed outside of the app."

Ek doubled down on this issue, referring to Apple's commission as a "competitor tax":

Let's call this 30% revenue-share exactly what it is – a competitor tax. Importantly, Apple's posture towards Spotify became increasingly hostile after Apple acquired a rival music streaming service and launched Apple Music. But until now, we felt like we didn't have much of a choice.

Spotify Premium normally costs $9.99 per month, the same price as ‌Apple Music‌, but if Spotify were to offer that price on the ‌App Store‌, it would only receive $6.99 of that amount after Apple's cut.

Spotify did experiment with offering Premium for $12.99 per month through its iOS app starting in 2014, netting it $9.09 per subscriber after Apple's cut, but this put it at a competitive disadvantage since ‌Apple Music‌ is $9.99 per month. Spotify has since stopped allowing upgrading to Premium through its iOS app.

As we all know, iOS and the ‌App Store‌ is the only way to offer our service to anyone with an iPhone or iPad. That's over a billion people around the world. So not being on their platform is just not an option for us — or really for any competing internet service in this day and age. Apple knows this.

If we wish to use Apple's payment system to allow our customers to upgrade to our Premium service, we must pay that 30% tax. This means we cannot be price competitive because we are forced to increase our cost to consumers … while Apple avoids the tax all together and can offer ‌Apple Music‌ at a much lower, more attractive rate. This is especially damaging to a company like ours who already pays out a significant portion of our revenues to record labels and music publishers.

The issue doesn't end there, as Apple's ‌App Store‌ review guidelines prevent Spotify from letting users know that they can subscribe to Premium for $9.99 per month on the web or other platforms. The guidelines also prevent Spotify from advertising discounts and other promotions in its iOS app.

We are essentially faced with a "gag order" that prevents us from communicating with our own users about our service. From dictating how we communicate with our own customers to imposing an unjustified tax, Apple isn't playing fair. Let me be clear: we have no desire to step into the spotlight on this issue. But we also believe we have no other choice.

Ek concluded with a ping-pong metaphor:

It's like inviting you to a match on our ping-pong table and then forcing you to play blindfolded while we change the rules throughout the game.

On a new website titled Time to Play Fair, Spotify also says it is not allowed to be on the HomePod or Siri, along with other accusations.

Spotify is aiming for all apps to be subject to the same fair set of rules, including ‌Apple Music‌. Spotify also believes consumers should not be "forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple's" and that Apple should not be able to place "unfair restrictions" on marketing and promotions.

Tag: Spotify

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
21 months ago
What I'm hearing from Spotify is: "Apple did a lot of work creating this fantastic distribution platform and Apple did a lot of work creating a fantastic integration between their Store and their devices and Apple amassed a huge database of satisfied returning customers, but now WE want to benefit from all that for nothing."
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
This is incredibly similar to what got Microsoft in trouble with IE back in the day. When you are the OS and by extension the platform, you are put in a special position where you have to play fair, even with your competitors. Apple is not playing fair, and Spotify is exactly right to complain about it. Compete on the service, don't compete on business leverage.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
So then the Spotify argument is that unless Apple provides the App Store for free everyone except Apple is at a competitive disadvantage. Explain where else in the world a store, online or brick & mortar, lets someone else sell a product in their store without taking a cut (normally called a mark-up). Gotta call BS on Spotify's argument.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
Pretty silly. Spotify wants to use Apple's platform and customer base, which they have worked hard to develop and cultivate for years, to make money. Yet, they don't want to pay Apple a cut for providing this platform and customer base? If you don't want to pay it, you don't have to, but don't expect to use their platform for free.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
I agree that Apple aren't being fair in this field. Whether or not they can be sued for it is a whole another matter, but we've now reached a point where dozens of high profile companies are trying to dodge around Apple's revenue sharing systems, from HBO to Spotify etc. etc. Even Disney and Pixar are mad, and the latter of those companies was founded by, among others, Steve Jobs

There is no way that Apple receiving a 30% cut is fair in a scenario such as this. Apple is not offering any services other than billing the customer, for which 30% is massively, massively too high. They don't host the music, they don't pay for the bandwidth, they don't offer the catalogue, they don't protect customer nor provider from anything whatsoever. The only thing they've provided is the platform iOS. If Microsoft can have an anti-trust case just by pre-installing Internet Explorer, surely this more than qualifies as an anti-trust case.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
I'm completely with Spotify on this one. Apple should compete by just building better products - and they used to do exactly that. Let the customer decide.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...