What If Apple Blocks Spotify’s iPhone App?

It’s been a looming issue ever since the streaming music service said an iPhone app would be part of its premium offering, and little’s changed since then. But maybe that’s the problem.

Comments from Spotify’s community manager in the Evening Standard (via MusicAlly) at least suggest the company hasn’t been working out a special deal with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), and is operating much as any hopeful app developer: “We really don’t know if Apple will give us the go-ahead, and all we can do it submit our software then wait and see. It’s something of a black hole.” That would be quite some development investment without knowing whether the app would even be allowed…

One school of thought holds that letting Spotify’s unlimited on-demand music on to iPhone would cannibalise iTunes Store downloads. On the other hand, as MusicAlly points out, Apple has already shifted many copies of the Pandora and Last.fm apps. But, unlike Spotify, those apps don’t offer on-demand streaming of any songs a user chooses – instead, a stream of thematically related tunes – more like a radio stations than a jukebox.

Apple has already been opening its App Store up to bands and labels who want to push their music through this new channel rather than the iTunes Store – but it’s been treading forward awkwardly, once banning the Nine Inch Nails app for containing a link to a song with profanity. Even if Apple were unconcerned by any cannibalisation threat, if it applied the same logic as that, it would block Spotify’s app for offering access to the hundreds of tracks out there with sweary lyrics.

Still, we’re not there yet. Mobile apps is one of the few features Spotify has so far confirmed it will offer to only premium payers – an iPhone concept video first leaked in February and an Android demo presented at Google I/O in May. Other current premium drivers include advance album release windows and ticket giveaways; possible future ideas are other devices/platforms, live sessions, and content like interviews and features.