Apple is "a barrier to innovation", says Spotify CEO

Daniel Ek encourages UK government to pass legislation to allow “fair competition”

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has accused Apple of being “a barrier to innovation”, claiming that their policies stifle competition and calling on the UK government to enact new legislation which would “redefine how businesses can compete, grow and thrive on the internet”.

Writing in an opinion piece for the Daily Mail, Ek stated that launching a company like Spotify wouldn't be feasible in today’s tech ecosystem, thanks to processes and rules from Apple that he slammed as “prohibitive” and “excessive”.

Ek’s main complaints are around the 30% cut that Apple demands from in-app purchases and subscription fees processed via its App Store. iOS also does not allow apps to be downloaded via third-party services, which critics say forces companies to pay this fee. He has called on Apple to eliminate this fee, or to allow alternative app stores on its platform.

“The present mobile environment is a far cry from the more open and level playing-field that existed when I started building companies,” said Ek. “It also makes me wonder whether launching a venture like Spotify would even be feasible today. My guess is no.”

Apple, for its part, has rejected claims that its practices are harmful to competitors or to innovation, pointing to Spotify’s dominance in the music streaming market, and arguing that the App Store acts as an accelerator of growth for developers. The company also argues that the strict control it retains of its software platform and App Store is part of what allows it to provide a secure and trusted environment for users.

Ek also claimed that Apple has generated “at least $100 billion” in revenue from this 30% ‘tax’, although Apple has not released an official detailed breakdown of its App Store profits. 

In his column, Ek claimed that Apple is imposing barriers against competitors like Spotify and prioritising its own business, and voiced his support for the proposed Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill as a potential solution. 

The legislation was introduced to Parliament earlier this year, and proposes establishing a regulatory body which would oversee tech industry giants such as Apple and Meta, ensuring that they compete fairly for consumers’ business and allowing for more competition between the big players and smaller tech businesses.

The bill is currently under consideration by the UK government but has received criticism from large tech companies such as Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, who will be most affected by the legislation. Ek accused Apple of “intensive lobbying” to curtail the bill, saying “Apple has spent millions in country after country lobbying to stop those laws from taking effect”.

“It is our view that when competition is fair, everyone wins – consumers, companies and the country. That’s why it’s crucial that the government passes a strong bill, giving consumers greater choice and control over their digital lives, and why we’re urging the UK to show leadership on this issue.”

Spotify is not alone it its criticism of Apple’s policies; Fortnite publisher Epic Games has also repeatedly clashed with the tech company over its app store fees. Apple’s principal rival Google has also faced similar complaints over its fees, which it dropped from 30% to 15% in 2021.

Ek previously spoke about his support of the Digital Markets Bill in an interview with the Financial Times, stating that Apple and Google are controlling how over four billion consumers worldwide access the internet, dictating the rules and directly competing with providers. “If you want to be the referee you can’t also be the player,” said Ek.