Spotify Responds to Apple

Posted on March 17, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS, Mobile, Music + Videos, Spotify with 36 Comments

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

Spotify branded Apple as a monopolist in its response to a wordy but insubstantial Apple statement about its App Store policies.

As I’m sure you know, Spotify officially complained about Apple’s illegal business practices in the EU and requested that the European Commission launch an antitrust investigation and put a halt to this behavior. The EU has agreed to investigate the charges. But Apple shot back with a lengthy but curious feeble and hypocritical response to the charges.

Apple is a bully. And what it really wants is to change the conversation away from its obviously illegal behavior and to unrelated and unsubstantiated accusations against Spotify.

Which is pretty much what Spotify is now saying in its response to Apple’s response.

“Every monopolist will suggest they have done nothing wrong and will argue that they have the best interests of competitors and consumers at heart,” a Spotify statement notes. “In that way, Apple’s response to our complaint before the European Commission is not new and is entirely in line with our expectations.”

“We filed our complaint because Apple’s actions hurt competition and consumers, and are in clear violation of the law,” the statement continues. “This is evident in Apple’s belief that Spotify’s users on iOS are Apple customers and not Spotify customers, which goes to the very heart of the issue with Apple. We respect the process the European Commission must now undertake to conduct its review.”

I’d respect it a lot more if it would simply move more quickly: The EC has shown itself very interesting in moving aggressively against abusive U.S. tech giants. But the EU legal process is quite slow, and it could be years before Apple is officially charged with antitrust abuses. And it has a chance to cement its ill-gotten gains in music streaming by then.

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Spotify Responds to Apple”

  1. provision l-3

    I think it would be really cool idea if you laid out the issues in a factual basis rather than quoting press releases and letting us know which quote you agree with. Spotify clearly has a case to make about unfair treatment of competitors and has inexplicably opted to include misleading /incorrect statements in their claim. Doing that serves as a distraction. Apple for its part has ignored the central issue of this and just gone after the softballs that Spotify lobbed out. Seems the correct thing to do is parse through the BS on both sides and get to the actual issues.

    • warren

      In reply to provision l-3:


      I don't disagree with you, but it helps to remember that this is still pretty fundamentally a "Paul Thurrott's opinions" web site. You'll find the balanced view you're interested in elsewhere.

      • BrianEricFord

        In reply to warren:


        Not all opinions are created equal, though. There’s nothing that prevents an opinion from being well argued. (Except not having a strong argument.)

      • Stooks

        In reply to warren:

        It has been clear how Paul feels about Apple for 20+ years now.


        I remember back when they were not the giant they are now and how he used to tout Microsoft numbers vs Apple all the time. He got a quiet during that days when the iPhone was making more money than all Microsoft products combined.

        • Andi

          In reply to Stooks:

          I first discovered this site as Paul Thurrott's Supersite for WIndows. It is clear that an MS slant is to be expected. That's why I've been visiting here for years. If you want Apple defenders you can check CNet, theVerge, gizmodo, etc.

          • BrianEricFord

            In reply to Andi:


            I came here because of an expertise surrounding Windows — and continue to visit despite a preoccupation with and lack of expertise in everything Apple. Not going to pretend that there’s actual critical analysis when it doesn’t exist, though.

    • toukale

      In reply to provision l-3:

      The thing is we all have biases, the question is whether we let those biases handcuff us from doing a great job (whatever it is). Some writers are better at hiding it than others, but don't kid yourself everyone have biases. What I've learned over the years is to question everything I read. I question the motive behind it, le raison d'etre, that have helped me tremendously so far.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to toukale:

        I don't disagree with you but your point isn't really relevant to what I was saying. The tagline for this site says there is "analysis" and this coverage completely lacks that (biased or not).

        • kjb434

          In reply to provision l-3: Analysis doesn't equal unbiased listing of facts.
          People read Thurrott because they like and trust his and the other staff's opinions. Doesn't mean you have to agree either.


          • provision l-3

            In reply to kjb434:

            I didn't say it did. I said there was no analysis whatsoever.


            And that may be why you read Thurrott but you don't speak for all readers. I have been reading for about 15 years and I mostly his opinions humors in a "old man yells at cloud" kinda way. That said, every so often he dwells on a subject, in this case Spotify, and his over the top hyperbole can't even save his rants.

    • Andi

      In reply to provision l-3:

      What is there to be laid? Apple is using its monopoly of ios to prop up it's 2nd rate music service at the expense of all other players. Apple enjoys the low marketshare in Europe to do that but the modus operandi is identical to that of a monopolist. Paul is correct.


      Spotify's answer is also spot on. Since when does Apple decide that if I buy an iphone, everything that goes through it makes me exclusively an Apple customer? The buck stops after the iphone acquisition.


      Honestly, Spotify should lodge complaints in the US where Apple is in the high 40's or Japan where last time I checked had 50 something percent of the market.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to Andi:

        Spotify has made factually incorrect statements which is stupid because they are solid footing for the crux of what I assume is their complaint. They actually haven't made their complaint to the EU public and have instead opted to use a PR campaign instead.


        " Spotify should lodge complaints in the US where Apple is in the high 40's"


        Spotify doesn't have a need to. This issue was heard by the U.S Supreme Court last November as part of Apple vs. Pepper and we are awaiting a ruling. Seems like you have some catching up to do on this whole subject.




  2. rvanallen

    Would be refreshing to see Apple get some push-back from businesses that have had to just "take it or else."

  3. christian.hvid

    Arrogance and ruthlessness has worked in Apple's favor so far, and will continue to do so until it suddenly doesn't. Maybe they should ask Microsoft for advice on how to detect that inflection point?

  4. truerock2

    This issue is a false narrative built on false premises. These exact same issues were developed during the time when IBM was at its zenith in the 1970s and 1980s and Microsoft was at its zenith in the 1990s and 2000s. Accept in today's case with Apple - Apple has a minority portion of its various market segments. Yes, Apple has an enormous amount of accumulated capital because they have a strong position with a wealthier than average customer base - not because it has an extensive impact on the majority of the world's information infrastructure.


    Regardless, I'm guessing that Apple's reign will be no longer than IBM's or Microsoft's. The reason I think this is because Apple has extremely strong competitors such as Google and Amazon - but, even more importantly China.


    I think it is reasonable to assume that China will exceed the US in economic, military and political power in the not too distant future. Apple, Google and Amazon will continue to exist - but, in the way that Microsoft and IBM currently exists. The US will continue to exist - but, in a way more analogous to today's European Union as opposed to the US global position in the immediate aftermath of the post World War 2 environment.


    So, I think it is a complete waste of time for anyone to worry about Apple's, Google's and Amazon's economic positions in the world's economy - because, it will all end sooner rather than later. There are much more important issues for everyone to spend time contemplating.


    Yes, Spotify wants to make as much money as it can and it wants to do so as soon as possible - such is the nature of business. The nexus of the issue is that Spotiy wants to leverage the products of Apple to make as much money as possible. Why Apple has any responsibility to help Spotify make money is unfathomable to me. That would seem antithetical to the basis of capitalism. I have not read the basis of what philosophical premise underlies that idea. Perhaps the ideas underlying US laws addressing economic monopolies might apply - accept Apple does not have any monopolies - as defined under US laws.

    • skane2600

      In reply to truerock2:

      Apple's is no less leveraging other companies products to make money as those companies are leveraging Apple. A key part of Apple's iPhone and IPad success is the existence of third-party apps.

    • toukale

      In reply to truerock2:

      You are right, except our current environment is not best position to respond to something like that. China is setting goals that will take decades to accomplish, no so with the US. We are too focus on short term gains to combat anything China is doing long term. We are obsess with short term elections every 2 to 4 years and the current environment of immediate results is not helping any.

    • Stooks

      In reply to truerock2:

      China has economical problems that are only growing and could balloon into a big collapse in the future.


      Their military is large but down in the rank and file it is poorly equipped, poorly trained and forced membership with very low retention. Short of them being invaded on their mainland I doubt they could last very long outside their borders.


      I do agree that this whole thing is stupid. Spotify is a second class citizen on my iPhone and so I use Apple Music.

      • toukale

        In reply to Stooks:

        Except, most experts are theorizing the next world war won't be fought the same way as past wars, it will most likely be cyber. If that is the case, the strength of the US military won't help them a great deal.

        • Stooks

          In reply to toukale:

          Lol. When stealth bombers drop 5k bunker busters on your data centers cyber breaks down pretty quick.


          You spend end too much time reading RT propaganda news.

          • wright_is

            In reply to Stooks:

            You are assuming that the stealth bombers, or rather their control systems and chain of command aren't disabled before they can get to the target... If were were talking about B17s, I'd be with you, even most of the bombers from the 60s and 70s, but a modern bomber with all-electric flight systems and fly-by-wire? Not so sure.

      • wright_is

        In reply to Stooks:

        And the West's military is better? The German Bundeswehr is having its own problems, they had, on average, 11 Tiger attack helicopters in serviceable condition last year, from the entire fleet, likewise, from 71 transport helicopters, they had an average of 17 in serviceable condition (daily average of helicopters that were in a safe flying condition).

  5. codymesh

    I have never seen a self-own as big as this, and props to Spotify for seeing this coming a mile away. They are confident in their case - as they should be! - and I believe they will win this.

    • toukale

      In reply to codymesh:

      This tells me one thing, most of Spotify paying users are on iOS and not Android. Not surprising if this is the case, since this is all about buying power and not market shares. Spotify is not wrong in what Apple is doing, heck, every platform owner have done this, in every market category, this is nothing new. The issue for the regulators in the EU is Android have over 80%+ market shares there and Spotify is the market leader by a long shot outside of the US, not the other way around.


      That is a tricky one to say the least. The timing is also interesting since I am sure Spotify can sense the bad sentiments surrounding big tech these days. With Apple getting ready to announce their video service in a week if they combine it with their music streaming ect... at a reasonable price, it can be a killer combo for those on iOS, which is most likely where most of their paying users resides.


      China and India have a huge market, but the buying power, specially in India is not there. In the US for example a regular user will pay $120 per year for Spotify. In India and China that same user will pay between $13-$18 per year. Since Apple music is expected to surpass Spotify in paying user base this year I understand the uneasy feeling those guys over at Spotify are feeling.

      • warren

        In reply to toukale:


        The most recent numbers we have show that Spotify has ~100 million paying subscribers (plus a lot more using the ad-supported service), compared to Apple's ~60 million paying users. Apple isn't catching up.



        • toukale

          In reply to warren:

          This is the problem when folks think market shares is the be all of everything. Here is the truth, market shares only matters when you want to attract developers to your platform, that's it. Ex... Windows phone, low market shares, no developers. However that is not the case here.


          Apple Music recently passed spotify in the US when it comes to paying users, not overall, but in paying subscribers. The reason why this is important is because of buying power and revenue. A regular paying user in the US will pay $120 per year for the service. In India and China that same user will pay $13-$18 per year. You see the difference in price? What makes tech great, is the ability to scale and lower your costs. Something Spotify can't do on streaming, because of those pesky contracts. Every user costs the same and spotify costs do not go down the more users they have, in fact it goes up.


          Apple Music does not have a free tier specifically because they don't want to lose money on the service. For Apple market shares is not the goal, profitability and revenue is. For Spotify, having lots of users looks good for investors but turning a profit is going to be a b**ch to accomplish. It's the reason why Spotify is spending big on podcasts lately. Podcasts will help them increase their premium users without costing them more (at least that is the goal).


          So again, market shares is not always the end goal for everyone, it all depends on the company (specially Apple) and what their goal is.

  6. Xatom

    Simply exit Apple 's platform to show the courage of your convictions and reduce prices 30 pct on yours. Problem solved without the need for pesky lawyers and time for due process. And meanwhile back on earth....

    • Skolvikings

      In reply to Xatom:

      This issue is bigger than just Spotify and the iOS ecosystem would sink without vibrant third-party apps on the platform.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to Xatom:

      Spotify doesn't have an app store or a smarphone platform?


      Maybe Apple could raise the price of Apple Music by 30%, which it'd have to do if it was a separate business unit and wanted to maintain its current margins.

      • Xatom

        In reply to IanYates82:

        This is Spotify's problem and has nothing to do with Apple and its direct to consumer services. Apple tells you the rules of the game and you choose to participate or not. Do you expect Spotify to reduce its price to consumer by 30 pct? All of these silly arguments are about which of 2 companies keep your money.


        Build your website for mobile Safari so it has the functionality/user experience/ease of an app and by-pass apple. Or play by the rules you agreed to. Not hard at all.

  7. dontbe evil

    can't wait that all music services, video services (as soon apple present their platform) and news services (when apple will present their platform) will backup spotify... antitrust included


    apple is acting as usual with arrogance

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