Without a doubt, the two biggest music streaming services in the world are Spotify and Apple. And, in the spirit of colonial capitalism, the duo is now involved in an all-out war with one another, in what’s proving to be the hottest beef since the East Coast-West Coast rivalry of the 1990s.

But unlike the East Coast-West Coast rivalry of the 1990s, Apple and Spotify are keeping their shots limited to the proper shade in the press. While it’s humorous to watch, it’s worth knowing how it all started, and where it’s at today.

How It All Began

The first shot was thrown by Spotify, and it was thrown all the way back in 2015. According to The Verge, Spotify sent out an email to all Apple iPhone customers, informing them that while both Spotify and Apple were available for $9.99 a month, Apple charged its customers an additional 30% on all payments made through iTunes. The message followed up with a step-by-step guide for Apple iPhone customers to turn off auto-renew for iTunes, and a warning that the prospective customer couldn’t sign up for Spotify until they canceled their agreement with Apple iTunes first. While this could be viewed as a bit of a savage move on the part of Spotify, it bears noting that Spotify was also facing record losses at this time. Apple, too, was facing inquiries from the US Justice Department and FTC for, allegedly, pressuring record labels to dismantle Spotify’s free-streaming tier.

Since then, the rival streaming sites have been one-upping one another in the press, online, and on social media.

The Latest Beef

In the latest battle of the Spotify vs. Apple war, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek announced that the company filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) against Apple. Ek, who claimed that he did so in an attempt to preserve “an ecosystem in which fair competition is not only encouraged but guaranteed,” took the position that he was looking out for the consumer, and insisted it wasn’t a “Spotify-vs.-Apple” issue.

Not to be outdone, Apple responded by portraying itself as an “everyman” company that created thousands of jobs, while claiming that Spotify was doing little more than reaping the benefits of the Apple system without putting in any of the work to maintain it (they were dickriding, in other words).

The Classic Disses

In the latest melee, each company released statements that were, simply put, absolutely brutal. The point-counterpoint response by the two companies in the press has been nothing short of classic.

Round 1: The Anti-Trust Complaint

As was previously said, Spotify deployed the nuclear option when they filed a complaint against Apple with Europe’s EC regulatory body.

  • Spotify Says: “Apple is both the owner of the iOS platform and the App Store—and a competitor to services like Spotify. In theory, this is fine. But in Apple’s case, they continue to give themselves an unfair advantage at every turn.” (Source)
  • Apple Says: “After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem — including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers — without making any contributions to that marketplace.” (Source)
  • Who Wins?: Spotify’s got this round, without a question. Apple has a rigid reputation of not allowing app makers to tell people how to buy their subscriptions if they don’t offer an option through the App Store. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, and yes, Spotify, have hit this snag with the computer giant.
  • Round 2: The Moral Crusade

    In their counter-point to Spotify’s depiction of Apple as being a greedy bully, Apple responded by saying that their issue was a “moral” one. Since they’re a creator of jobs and an advocate for the indie musician, Apple says they can’t be the problem — rather, it’s Spotify who wants their hands in cookie jars they have no business being in.

  • Spotify Says: “We aren’t seeking special treatment. We simply want the same treatment as numerous other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, who aren’t subject to the Apple tax and therefore don’t have the same restrictions.”
  • Apple Says: “Spotify has every right to determine their own business model, but we feel an obligation to respond when Spotify wraps its financial motivations in misleading rhetoric about who we are, what we’ve built and what we do to support independent developers, musicians, songwriters and creators of all stripes.”
  • Who Wins? It’s a draw. While Apple certainly creates jobs, they have struggled with labor relations amidst steady improvements. In the same breath, Spotify certainly provides a platform for musicians and other content creators, but they pay less than one penny per stream. Even in a developing country, that’s not exactly what one would call a “sustainable business model.”
  • Round 3: It’s All About The Money

    Both companies are saying that the practices of the other are affecting the bottom line.

  • Spotify Says: “If we choose not to use Apple’s payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify. For example, they limit our communication with our customers—including our outreach beyond the app. In some cases, we aren’t even allowed to send emails to our customers who use Apple.”
  • Apple Says: “We’ve approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.”
  • Who Wins? Apple wins this round. Aside from the fact that there is no shortage of ways in which to find out information — surely, no Apple user solely relies on the App Store to make suggestions and decisions on their behalf — Spotify seems to be doing this because they believe Apple’s commissions are too high, and they want Apple to bend by thrusting them into the regulatory spotlight. There are better ways to go about doing this, to be sure.
  • Round 4: It’s A Monopoly

    After Spotify and Apple went round-for-round in their initial complaints, Spotify upped the ante by taking to the press and calling Apple a “monopoly,” trying to paint it with the same brush that Microsoft was painted with many years ago.

  • Spotify Says: “Every monopolist will suggest they have done nothing wrong and will argue that they have the best interests of competitors and consumers at heart.” (Source)
  • Apple Says: “The majority of Spotify users on Apple’s iOS platform used the free version of the app and did not, therefore, contribute to this revenue stream.” (Source)
  • Who Wins? Spotify, but only by a small margin. The theory is, if you have nothing to hide, you welcome the challenge. If Apple didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s all Spotify’s fault, let the EC play its hand and show, once and for all, that it’s Spotify being petty, not Apple being greedy.
  • Final Round: Who Wins?

    At the end of the day, neither one wins in this “competition.” Companies, at the end of the day, are not human beings, and the push-and-pull for more revenue generally leaves a myriad of issues and people caught in the crossfire. (That includes the artists that use their respective platforms.)

    This battle royale — this trading of “distinguished disses” between Spotify and Apple — is little more than a battle to get a larger market share.

    Now the question is, who will emerge victorious at the end of the day?

    Subscribe to Apple Music | Subscribe to Spotify