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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is one of the biggest whiners in tech

Published Oct 25th, 2023 3:05PM EDT
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek
Image: Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for Spotify

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Daniel Ek is at it again. The CEO of Spotify — which is the #1 music app on iPhone, according to Apple — has penned an op-ed in The Daily Mail, of all places, in which he bashes the iPhone maker as such a “barrier to innovation” that he doesn’t even think he could have launched Spotify at all if he’d started today.

The sticking points, stop me if you’ve heard this before, are Apple’s supposedly prohibitive rules that govern its App Store — including the 30% cut that Apple takes whenever a user makes a payment within an iPhone app. Spotify users on the free tier also can’t upgrade to the Premium tier within the app.

In fact, Apple doesn’t even let Spotify communicate to its users how to do so. Try to upgrade your free account inside the app, for example, and you’re taken to a screen that lists the different Premium versions, explains the benefits of each, and laments in small print: “You can’t upgrade to Premium in the app. We know, it’s not ideal.”

In his op-ed, Ek writes that “While Apple has long been unwilling to share any detailed breakdown of its App Store profits, all indications point to the fact that it has generated at least $100 billion thanks to the high 30 percent tax it imposes on innovators here in the UK and around the world.

“How many more start-ups would have succeeded and grown into successful businesses if Apple wasn’t extracting this rent and reaping massive rewards at the expense of the broader tech economy?”

Spotify logoImage source: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

None of this, of course, is new to anyone who’s followed the Spotify story. Two years ago, for example, Spotify’s then-chief legal officer wrote a screed in The Wall Street Journal targeting the iPhone maker, titled “The Monopolist Worm in Apple that’s even more pointed than Ek’s is.

“Apple’s ability to strange its competitors is unprecedented,” that earlier op-ed reads, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Google has an order of magnitude more Android users than Apple does, and that so many apps like Netflix, Flipboard, and Google Maps are as or more popular than Apple’s own. That comment was a dumb thing to say then, and it’s just as dumb now.

I get that every business, Spotify included, wants acquiring customers to be as inexpensive and easy as possible, but what Ek is really saying is that he wants to acquire those customers at the expense of someone else’s business — and, moreover, that there shouldn’t be a single barrier to doing so. Sort of like if I were a fashion designer, and I traipsed into Wal-Mart demanding that my clothes be allowed on the shelves without any prerequisite whatsoever.

Spotify logoImage source: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have a member of my household who is an iPhone owner and currently a Spotify Premium subscriber. Not a moment’s thought was given to the fact that the subscription needed to be done through Spotify’s website as opposed to the iPhone (which sort of seems like it undercuts Ek’s assessment that he couldn’t have launched Spotify today because of Apple).

If your product is great, people will do whatever they need to do in order to buy it over the competition. Whining about life not being fair is what losers do.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.