In the latest installment of the Spotify-Rogan saga, CEO Daniel Ek sent out a company memo on Sunday addressing Joe Rogan’s use of harmful racial slurs in past episodes of his podcast. Over 70 of these past episodes have now been removed from Spotify. In the memo, which was published by The Hollywood Reporter, Ek declared that Spotify will invest $100 million in the licensing, development and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups. This is the same amount of money that Spotify paid to Joe Rogan for his exclusive content deal.
“I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote to Spotify staff. “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.”
Spotify signed “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Rogan’s podcast, to an exclusive, multi-year $100 million deal in May 2020, making 11 years of content available only on the platform. But it wasn’t long before the already controversial figure stirred up even more concern from Spotify users after platforming guests like Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist who has spread misinformation about COVID-19.
Tensions escalated recently when 270 medical professionals signed an open letter to Spotify urging the company to implement rules around misinformation after Rogan, who is one of the most-listened to podcasters in the industry, hosted Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. High-profile figures like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and author Roxane Gay pulled their content from Spotify in protest of the company’s inaction against Rogan’s platforming of false public health information.
“One of the things I am thinking about is what additional steps we can take to further balance creator expression with user safety,” Ek wrote. “I’ve asked our teams to expand the number of outside experts we consult with on these efforts and look forward to sharing more details.”
So far, Spotify has published its platform rules — which were previously not public — which prohibit content that promotes “dangerous deceptive medical information,” like asserting that COVID-19 isn’t real. The platform has also committed to adding a content advisory to any podcast that includes a discussion of COVID-19.
Despite its current PR nightmare, Spotify hasn’t yet lost much of its market share compared to other streaming services.