Joe Rogan’s mouth has put Spotify in a tough spot, but the streaming giant is apparently not ready to part ways with the popular podcast host despite intense criticism over his anti-vaccine comments and racial slurs.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a message to employees released Sunday that the company wouldn’t part ways with Rogan.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree withfrom our platform, I realize some will want more,” Ek said in the note. “And I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”
“We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress,” Ek wrote.
He said he was “deeply sorry” for the impact the controversy was having on Spotify’s workforce.
The letter is the clearest indication yet of where Spotify stands on Rogan’s fate with the company.
Music accounts for the vast majority of Spotify’s revenue, but Rogan represents its future, analysts say. Keeping his podcast is a key part of Spotify’s strategy to be a one-stop shop for audio.
Spotify reportedly paid more than $100 million to license Rogan’s podcast, its most popular. He’s the centerpiece of the company’s goal of becoming an audio company rather than just a music company. In the long term, Spotify has more control over potential revenue from podcasts than it does for music, Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan says.
The Swedish company is gunning to be the premiere podcasting platform, investing hundreds of millions of dollars since 2019 to buy podcast companies like Gimlet and Anchor and sign top hosts like Rogan and Dax Shepard.
Spotify was set to overtake Apple last year as the biggest podcast platform in the United States, the world’s largest market, by number of listeners, according to the research firm eMarketer.
Popular podcasters, particularly the outspoken ones, are likely to be watching this protest very closely to see if Spotify will stick up for the right to speak freely.
Whether Spotify continues to keep Rogan or cuts ties, the decision likely won’t sit well with one side or the other in an increasingly polarized country.
On race, the choice is between keeping Rogan and sending a message that society has become too “woke” or showing that Spotify is more attuned to a multiracial society, said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
“If Spotify says ‘We can’t drop him. He has the right to say what he wants,’ that continues on the line where there is this implicit support to say racist things on these platforms,” she said in an interview before Ek’s letter.
The streaming site also has to decide whether offensive words are allowable elsewhere on its app, where songs with racist, homophobic and anti-immigrant messages are available, said John Wihbey, a Northeastern University professor and specialist in emerging technologies.
“There’s some real self-examination to be doing beyond Joe,” Wihbey said. “This is a big moment of reckoning for entertainment and streaming platforms to see where the window is, what’s over the line.”
The bottom-line question should be pretty simple for Spotify, said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business and law professor. The conservative Rogan stands in contrast to the much more liberal musicians who generate the bulk of Spotify’s profits, he said.
“They can’t blow off the artists. The artists make Spotify,” Gordon said. “They need to settle up with Rogan, let him go to a home that will be consistent with who he is. And.”
Having Rogan on Spotify is like having a political party with Donald Trump as the presidential candidate and liberal Elizabeth Warren as vice president. “It isn’t going to work,” Gordon said.
Spotify reports having 406 million active monthly users, up nearly 20% from last year, and advertising has grown largely because of podcasting. The company had 31% of the 524 million music streaming subscriptions worldwide in the second quarter of 2021, more than double that of second-place Apple Music, according to Midia Research.
Rogan’s public troubles started on Jan. 24 when musicianbecause of concerns that Rogan was promoting skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines. , including Joni Mitchell and Roxane Gay.
The scrutiny only intensified when a video compilation emerged last week showing Rogan repeatedly using racial slurs. Grammy-winning artist India.Arie posted it on her Instagram, using the hashtag #DeleteSpotify.
Spotify said previously that it would soon, directing listeners to factual, up-to-date information from scientists and public health experts.
“They take this money that’s built from streaming, and they pay this guy $100 million, but they pay us like .003% of a penny,” Arie wrote. “I don’t want to generate money that pays that.”
Rogan apologized Saturday, saying that the slurs were the “most regretful and shameful thing” he has ever had to address and that he hasn’t used the N-word in years.
Ek told The Wall Street Journal last week that he took responsibility for being “too slow to respond” to the criticism over vaccine misinformation. It took the company five days to respond publicly to Young.
“It’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” Ek continued in a statement.
Rogan is an odd mix of shock-jock and host who leads discussions of public policy, arts and culture, Wihbey said, describing his brand as conservative “bro America.”
His comments were clearly racist, Wihbey said, but he hopes that Rogan will see this as a chance to substantively discuss race and vaccine issues in future episodes. His audience may not hear the discussions otherwise, Wihbey said.
“I do think that assembling this kind of audience is important,” he said. “He can say things that I think can move the needle.”
Wingfield said the controversy could be positive if it starts a shift to discussions of racial stereotypes.
“I think that if Joe Rogan kind of learns from this experience and becomes a driving voice for that conversation, that could be really valuable,” she said. “But I want to stress again that that’s a pretty big if, and I don’t know if it will come to that.”
Spotify Technology’s share price fell 0.5% early Monday in after hours trading. It jumped 9.2% on Friday.
World News || Latest News || U.S. News