Over the past few years, Spotify has become one of the most popular streaming services across the globe. Users have enjoyed utilizing the service to listen to their favorite music for many years, but the platform has recently expanded to include podcasts as well.
In May 2020, Spotify secured the exclusive streaming rights to “The Joe Rogan Experience,” a podcast show produced by Joe Rogan. This licensing agreement was widely recognized as the catalyst that catapulted Spotify to the forefront of the podcasting market, estimated to turn a profit of $200 million. However, the relationship between Rogan and Spotify has sparked widespread controversy in the midst of a debate regarding the responsibility of a streaming service to monitor content on their platform.
Rogan is well-known for his casual, conversation-style podcasting episodes. In the past, he has interviewed a broad range of prominent societal figures, such as Elon Musk, Miley Cyrus and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Rogan has amassed an enormous following of fans that contribute to his tens of millions of listeners on Spotify, but as his fame has grown, he has attracted substantial criticism. Most recently, specific excerpts from his podcast episodes have been compiled and shared online, gaining traction in the media and prompting fellow podcasters, musical artists, members of the medical community and much of the general public to publicly condemn the content.
The clips in question feature Rogan using racial slurs, making humorous remarks about sexual assault and broadcasting information about the COVID-19 pandemic that has not been endorsed by the scientific or medical community. Most notably, musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have removed some of their music as a symbolic protest against Spotify for continuing to stream “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
In response to the controversy, Spotify released a statement that recognized the claims and concerns of its listeners, but ultimately maintained that banning Rogan from the platform would be a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech in the United States.
Furthermore, Spotify promised to contribute $100 million to the work of content creators who belong to minority groups. 113 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” have been removed from the platform, but the rest of Rogan’s content can still be found on Spotify. In tandem with Spotify’s official statement, Rogan released a personal statement expressing his regret for causing offense and making light of serious issues such as sexual assault and racial inequity.
Ultimately, he expressed his desire to make changes to his rhetoric and behavior as he moved forward with his content creation, hoping to create a more balanced environment for listeners.