In the latest installment of the Spotify-Rogan saga, CEO Daniel Ek sent out a memo from the company on Sunday addressing Joe Rogan’s use of harmful racial slurs in previous episodes of his podcast. More than 70 of these previous episodes have already been removed from Spotify. In the memorandum, which was published by The Hollywood Reporter, Ek stated that Spotify will invest $100 million in licensing, developing and marketing music and audio content from historically marginalized groups. this is the same amount of money that Spotify paid Joe Rogan for their exclusive content deal.
“I want to make one point very clear – I don’t believe silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote to the Spotify team. “We should have clear boundaries around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it is critical thinking and open debate that drive real and needed 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 on the platform alone. But it didn’t take long for the already controversial figure to raise even more concern from Spotify users after inviting guests like Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist who has spread disinformation about COVID-19.
Tensions have increased recently when 270 medical professionals signed an open letter to Spotify urging the company to implement rules on disinformation 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 platform of false public health information.
“One of the things I’m thinking about is what additional steps we can take to further balance creator expression with user safety,” Ek wrote. “I have asked our teams to expand the number of outside experts we consult about these efforts, and we look forward to sharing more details.”
So far, Spotify has published its platform rules – which were previously not public – that prohibit content that promotes “dangerous misleading medical information”, such as claiming that COVID-19 is not real. The platform also committed to add a content consulting to any podcast that includes a discussion of COVID-19.
Despite its current PR nightmare, Spotify still hasn’t lost much of its market share compared to other streaming services.