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Max's Blog

Spotify's API and the problematic way 
of applying for a commercial license

Spotify's API and the problematic way of applying for a commercial license

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Listen - I'm just a developer that enjoys developing Android apps in my free time. I've recently built 2 apps that make use of Spotify's API.

One is Sign that completely depends on it. The other is Awake that only needs it for a nice-to-have feature.

At the beginning of 2019 I sent a commercial request for Sign to Spotify. I sent another one in mid 2020 for Awake.

I've been following all kind of Developer accounts from Spotify on social networks and I frequently saw developers asking below their post about the commercial requests they have sent. And that's understandable. Later I did the same.

Requesting a commercial license

You apply for a commercial product by filling out this Google Form.

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The form is asking for rather little information. When you have everything filled out, you are ready to submit it. That's it.

That's when the drama starts.

Issues with the request

There's no way to know or check...

  • if and when they received your request.
  • the current state of your request.
  • they have further questions or require more information.
  • when they will respond approximately.

In the best-case scenario you will receive an answer after half a year. Or in the worst-case scenario you will never receive an answer.

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Response

I have never received an answer for my first request for Sign for Spotify. I received the following answer for Awake's request after waiting over half a year:

Dear Spotify Commercial Integration Applicant,

Thank you so much for your interest in integrating your application with the Spotify Platform. At the moment, Spotify is only able to support a small handful of commercial partnerships, which are selected for their scale, compliance to our Developer Terms of Service, and alignment with the needs of Spotify's users and artists. At the moment, your application is not a strong fit for a conversation with our partnership team, but we truly appreciate your time and application.

Many thanks, The Spotify App Approval Team

An automatic generated email. That's what I received after waiting over half a year.

If you are not a multi-billion dollar business, you are no fit. Keep building and offering everything for free if you want to use the Spotify API.

Issues

The real issue here is that nobody knows anything about their requirements to be a "strong fit". There's zero transparency.

  • Does it require a specific minimum amount of downloads / active users / ...
  • What is a small handful of commercial partnerships? Why some lesser known commercial apps received a commercial license?

Other issues are:

  • They are not checking the quality of the product or idea at all.
  • Developers are helping to increase the reach of Spotify's influence and therefore increasing their user base and profits. And while developers do that, they first have to fight to do it legally in a commercial project. Really?

Conclusion

Building an app, or any product, that is based on an external product, service or library always comes with a high risks. That's the case for Spotify's API too.

You depend on Spotify's mercy and their love for developers. Your application lives and dies with it.

Unfortunately it seems like Spotify continuously cares less about their developers and users. It's 100 % only about profits and I hope this will change back to the better in the future.

 
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