Everything you need to know about the Joe Rogan Spotify controversy

Everything you need to know about the Joe Rogan Spotify controversy
FILE PHOTO: The Spotify logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The backstory:

  • Before we deep dive into what’s happening right now, Joe Rogan is a pretty famous and divisive figure in North America. He’s 54 years old and also the biggest podcaster in the world.
  • His podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience," accounts for 4.5% of all shows heard on Spotify Technology SA since it debuted in September 2020.
  • And in 2021, over a year after Rogan signed an exclusive US$100 million deal with Spotify (meaning you can only find some of his content on their platform), Spotify said his podcast was the most listened to podcast of the year.
  • Part of the reason why the guy and his podcast are so famous is that he lands a lot of popular people as guests on his show, from Kanye West to Kevin Hart to Matthew McConaughey to Edward Snowden, during which, they talk about conspiracy theories, politics and more. Rogan also famously invited Elon Musk to his show, where they got stoned together.

What did Joe Rogan do?

  • Last year, Rogan aired an episode of his podcast where he spoke to Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be one of the architects behind the mRNA vaccine technology. But Malone is also known for sharing COVID-19 misinformation, which has gotten him banned from Twitter.
  • Malone said that people were being “hypnotized” into accepting the vaccines and wearing masks, calling it a form of “mass formation psychosis.” He also said that hospitals were financially incentivized to falsely diagnose COVID-19 deaths.
  • He also supported the use of the drug ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. Ivermectin is used to treat onchocerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil-transmitted worm infections.
  • 270 medical professionals and educators published an open letter to Spotify calling on the platform to take action against misinformation.
  • The letter wrote: “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

The development:

  • Now, singer-songwriters Graham Nash and India Arie on Tuesday announced plans to remove their music from Spotify because of the company’s support for Rogan. Last week, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell both removed most of their music from the platform.
  • In response, on Sunday, Rogan apologized, saying, “I want to thank Spotify for being so supportive during this time, and I’m very sorry that this is happening to them and that they’re taking so much heat from it.” He also apologized to Young and Mitchell. Rogan also said that he would look to invite more mainstream experts onto his show, rather than controversial figures, as well as doing more research on certain topics.
  • Over the past four years, Spotify has invested over US$1 billion to become the “Netflix for audio” into its money-losing platform, signing exclusive deals with people like Rogan to lure in listeners and beat Apple and Amazon’s platforms.
  • Even though the company is dealing with this Rogan situation right now, Wall Street analysts still expect Spotify’s revenue and premium subscribers to keep growing as advertising dollars increase from a pandemic slump and more music streamers switch to trying out podcasts.
  • According to Refinitiv, quarterly revenue is expected to increase to 2.65 billion euros (US$2.99 billion) from 2.50 billion euros. Fourth-quarter results will be released on Wednesday.

You drive the stories at TMS. DM us which headline you want us to explain, or email us.