Long-simmering discontent among pureplay streaming services about some of the terms and conditions of operating within the apps ecosystems of Apple and Google is bubbling back out into the open this week.
Spotify and Deezer are among the companies signing a letter to the European Commission alleging that big internet platforms “can and do abuse their privileged position”.
The Financial Times broke the story this morning, noting that Apple and Google are in the firing line – although our understanding of the disgruntlement here is that Apple is more the focus for music-streaming companies.
“Although the letter to the European Commission does not cite the Silicon Valley giants by name, it complains that some mobile operating systems, app stores and search engines have evolved from ‘gateways’ into ‘gatekeepers’ — effectively hindering rivals from competing with their own services,” reported the FT.
The letter’s signatories want the EC to put new rules in place “guiding the interactions between platforms and their business users”, with complaints including the level of access to customer data, as well as worries that the internet companies promote their own services (Apple Music and Google Play / YouTube in this case) over those of independent rivals.
Spotify has already clashed with Apple a couple of times in recent years, including a row about whether updates to its iOS app were being blocked or delayed.
The bigger picture here is of the competitive environment in music-streaming for pureplay services like Spotify and Deezer. This isn’t just about their relative financial weakness compared to the deep coffers of Apple/Google/Amazon, but about how they reach the ears (and wallets) of their listeners.
From smartphones and app-store billing to the new breed of smart speakers, many of the hardware/platform ‘gateways’ are built and run by the big technology companies.
Establishing what is and isn’t fair about how open they make those gateways is critical to the future health of the pureplays – but also an important issue for the wider music industry too. Which is not to say Apple and Google will not have their own arguments to set out in their defence.