Spotify chief goes to Washington in his crusade against Apple
Spotify Technology SA’s chief executive officer is engaged in a Washington charm offensive this week that he hopes will convince the US government to curb the power of his company’s nemesis, Apple Inc.
Daniel Ek, who is also the company’s co-founder, said in an interview that he’s taking a “bipartisan” approach as he encourages legislators to reintroduce policies that would lessen Apple’s enormous control over its app store.
He said he’s had meetings with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer among many others on his first trip to Washington in years.
Ek added that Spotify’s recent clashes with Apple over audiobooks prompted him to get personally engaged in the fight.
“That got me to feel like this is untenable,” Ek said, referring to Apple rejecting Spotify’s new audiobook features several times before allowing it in a limited capacity last year.
“It’s the first time in history where we’ve co-developed a product with our legal team,” he said. Ek spoke from backstage at a venue in Washington’s Union Market before a Spotify event that drew more than 200 attendees, including legislators and staff.
Ek said that audiobooks would play an important role in the Swedish company’s future, but right now the experience of buying audiobooks from Spotify on the Apple app store is “pretty horrible”.
Apple said in a statement that “the Spotify app was rejected for not following the guidelines regarding including explicit in-app communications to direct users outside the app to make digital purchases. We provided them with clear guidance on how to resolve the issue, and approved their app after they made changes that brought it into compliance.”
Ek’s visit comes as legislation known as the Open App Markets Act has stalled in Congress after Schumer chose not to bring it to the floor for a vote last year.
The measure would require Apple and Alphabet’s Google to make it easier for users to download other app stores and switch the apps set as the defaults on phones.
At the same time, the Justice Department is investigating Apple for potentially anti-competitive behavior. Ek said that he didn’t speak with Justice Department officials this week but added that he’s “sure we will interact with them in other forms”.
Spotify has been fighting with Apple over its restrictions for years, prompting complaints in the European Union and around the world.
“The important part for me isn’t whether we deal with the past,” Ek said. He said Spotify is most focused on pushing legislation in the EU and US that would force Apple to change, rather than investigating its previous behaviour. BM/DM