Spotify's Princess Blindly Encounters Wicked Witch

Apple’s Proposed Changes Reject the Goals of the DMA
For almost five years – 1,782 days – we have been asking the European Commission to take action against Apple...

Last week, immediately after Apple published their proposed changes to iOS and the App Store ahead of the DMA changes due to take effect in March, I noted one element to quickly look out for was how large developers, specifically Spotify, responded to this news. Well it took a day, and Spotify – unsurprisingly – was not happy:

"Unfair stifling of innovation..."
"Level of arrogance..."
"Under the false pretense of compliance..."
"Masquerading as compliance..."
"An undesirable alternative to the status quo..."
"This is extortion, plain and simple."

And that's just the first few paragraphs. Again, hardly surprising given what Apple put forth (including their own wild press release on the matter). But actually what is surprising was Spotify's original post, written the day before Apple announced their changes. It's so wildly optimistic about what Spotify presumed was about to come. It reads like regulatory fan fiction. It reads like it was written by a company that has never met, let alone interacted with Apple.

It reads like a fairy tale.

So the question is whether Spotify was really this out of touch with what Apple was likely to do here (which wasn't that hard to predict), or if it was a last-gasp attempt to sway Apple not to do what they did. Or, perhaps more likely, a way to frame the forthcoming next stage of the battle knowing that Apple would likely do what they did. You sort of have to hope it was this latter scenario and that Spotify wasn't so wildly blindsided by Apple here. Because that would have been foolish. And perhaps would call into question their vision on a number of fronts.

That first post reads like it was written on a different planet, with more spin than a bowling ball trying to convert a 7-10 split. The multiple notices that Apple was putting a 30% tax on you, the user, which of course, isn't really accurate. That tax is on Spotify, which can choose either to pass that down to the user in the form of a price increase, or eat it. Spotify has chosen not to do the latter, hence all the friction in trying to subscribe and buy things via their app.

And so when they post screenshots of what their app could look like, if Apple simply complied with the DMA changes in the way Spotify would have liked them to, it's again misleading. Spotify could have an app that looks the way they mocked it up right now – and in some ways, even more seamless – if they chose to pay Apple's cut. They choose not to. And undoubtedly for good reason given their business model! But they should just be honest about that. And ideally about some of the very real downsides of the DMA changes, if fully implemented. But that complicates the argument and clouds the messaging, of course.

To be clear, Apple's 70/30 split is a ridiculous rate that stems from a tangential (which is being generous) past, and it should be changed. But it's disingenuous to fully frame it the way Spotify is framing it. Which Spotify knows. They should be more honest in their communication about all of this. Because their case is good without the spin!

Apple has offered up an option which is not really an option at all. From Spotify to the small indie developer, it makes basically no sense to take Apple's "new deal". Apple once again may be following the letter of the law (I suspect we'll see soon enough!) but they're clearly disregarding the intent of the law here. And as much as Spotify hates that, the EU is likely to hate it more.