Remember a few years ago when Apple got in trouble for conspiring with book publishers to raise ebook prices to hurt Amazon and the public? Apparently the company hasn’t learned very much. Today comes a report from the Verge, claiming that the DOJ is now investigating Apple for conspiring with the major record labels to get them to kill off Spotify’s free tier, in an effort to better promote its own Beats Music service, which has no free tier.
Apple has been using its considerable power in the music industry to stop the music labels from renewing Spotify’s license to stream music through its free tier. Spotify currently has 60 million listeners, but only 15 million of them are paid users. Getting the music labels to kill the freemium tiers from Spotify and others could put Apple in prime position to grab a large swath of new users when it launches its own streaming service, which is widely expected to feature a considerable amount of exclusive content. “All the way up to Tim Cook, these guys are cutthroat,” one music industry source said.
And it’s not just Spotify. Apparently, Apple was trying to get labels to pull music from YouTube too:
Sources also indicated that Apple offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube. Apple is seemingly trying to clear a path before its streaming service launches, which is expected to debut at WWDC in June. If Apple convinces the labels to stop licensing freemium services from Spotify and YouTube, it could take out a significant portion of business from its two largest music competitors.