Spotify plays hardball with Apple Music, but do they have a helmet?

Update: Spotify has told Peter Kafka at Recode the accusations are "unequivocally false":

Spotify wouldn't comment on other charges, levied by sources in reports from Bloomberg and the New York Times, that Spotify wasn't going to go out of its way to promote releases from acts that went to rivals first.

That would make much more sense, since Spotify will want some way to signal that artists shouldn't engage in exclusives, which Apple and Tidal have secured by giving artists some combination of cash, equity and marketing support.

When "people familiar with the strategy" dish dirt to mainstream business publication, it's with an agenda. What's the agenda here? Is it something going on within Spotify, or between Spotify and Apple?

Apple has been using exclusives, promotions, contributions, collaborations, and other incentives to help build their new subscription Apple Music service. And that hasn't been sitting right with Spotify.

Lucas Shaw and Adam Satarino, writing for Bloomberg:

Spotify has been retaliating against musicians who introduce new material exclusively on rival Apple Music by making their songs harder to find, according to people familiar with the strategy. Artists who have given Apple exclusive access to new music have been told they won't be able to get their tracks on featured playlists once the songs become available on Spotify, said the people, who declined to be identified discussing the steps. Those artists have also found their songs buried in the search rankings of Spotify, the world's largest music-streaming service, the people said. Spotify said it doesn't alter search rankings.

Spotify has been using such practices for about a year, one of the people said, though others said the efforts have escalated over the past few months. Artists who have given exclusives to Tidal, the streaming service run by Jay Z, have also been retaliated against, the person said, declining to identify specific musicians.

All's fair in love and business, but this is worth repeating: There's close to zero long-term money to be made in streaming music. It feels destined to become a value-add for companies with significant, existing, platform-based revenue streams, like Apple, Google, and Facebook.

While Spotify could eventually be bought by such a company, they don't seem to have the leadership it would take to become such a company.

Be interesting to see if they eventually get bought out, and by whom.