Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Spotify is sounding the alarm over what it deems anti-competitive actions in the marketplace committed by Apple. The music streaming service has now filed a real-life, formal complaint against the tech giant with the European Commission. And the accompanying public relations push is one for the books.

“We’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has claimed in a blog post.

While the streaming service’s filing is confidential, Spotify has created a site unpacking its case against Apple, following up with a briefing for reporters attended by its general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.

The long and the short of it is this: Apple uses a combination of its mammoth installed base of iPhone users, as well as its App Store, to disproportionately tax and penalize competing services.

Spotify is arguing that Apple is trying to slow the streaming music service in tandem with pushing its own Apple Music service by adding a 30 percent fee for subscriptions sold through the Apple App Store. It’s also accusing Apple of adding barriers to the ease with which Spotify can integrate with hardware like the Apple Watch and HomePod speakers.

It needs to be said that none of these complaints are new for Spotify; the music services has already pursued regulatory help from both the U.S. and EU for years. Nor are they new for parallel sections of the media industry, like magazine and newspaper publishers, as well as video companies.

Indeed, this is an ongoing battle that continues to flare up in other industry hot spots: at the end of last year, for example, Netflix blocked new customers from signing up via the App Store in a bid to avoid sharing subscription revenue with Apple.

Now, Apple is set to release a new subscription offering today, one it will showcase in a bid to herald a push into original filmmaking, which it’s been making for several years now, as well as a “Netflix for magazines.” There’s also speculation that Apple may combine these offerings in a bundle, along with Apple Music, into one mega-subscription service. If it goes ahead with these plans, it’s good news for consumers and bad news for competitors.

During the press call, Gutierrez was adamant that Spotify’s filing is “completely unrelated” to the upcoming event.

Still, several pockets of context set last week’s announcement apart from previous Spotify complaints. In the U.S., for example, Senator Elizabeth Warren has renewed her demand that Apple be separated from its App Store, while the Supreme Court is also reviewing an antitrust case focused on Apple’s store. At the same time, European regulators are skeptical of American tech giants.

Furthermore, before you reach for the tissues on Spotify’s behalf, know that Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior has been a small hurdle at best: Spotify has managed to grow to more than 207 million users worldwide, including at least 96 million paying subscribers.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.