Spotify CEO speaks out on Joe Rogan controversy
Despite blasting Joe Rogan for using the N-word on his show, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek made it clear to employees that the platform has no plans to part ways with its No. 1 podcaster.
In Sunday’s internal memo, which had been obtained by the media, Ek said that he was sorry that the recent controversy around the highly popular The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast has left some of Spotify’s staff “feeling drained, frustrated and unheard.”
The entrepreneur described some of Rogan’s on-air comments as “incredibly hurtful,” revealing that the platform has held “conversations” with the 54-year-old comedian about the content of his shows, including “his history of using some racially insensitive language.”
According to Ek, it was after those “conversations” that the podcaster decided to remove 70 episodes of his program from Spotify last week. Rogan also issued an apology, explaining in a video that he had only used the N-word “in context,” while discussing a specific story or a person, not as a racist insult. But he said that he now understood that it was still a wrong thing to do and that the context didn’t matter.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some will want more. And I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” the Spotify CEO wrote.
The platform should obviously take action against harmful content, but “canceling voices is a slippery slope,” he pointed out. “Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”
Ek reiterated that Spotify was “not the publisher of JRE” despite its $100 million exclusive deal with Rogan implying otherwise.
He also promised that the platform will allocate $100 million for licensing, development, and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups. Such a move would work toward “improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether,” according to the CEO.
Disputes like the one now happening around JRE are “inevitable” as long as Spotify remains on course to “becoming the global audio platform,” while maintaining openness as its core value, Ek pointed out.
The release of a clip last week, in which multiple instances of Rogan using the N-word were lumped together, has become yet another blow to the podcaster, whose show often gathers an audience of as many as 11 million listeners per episode.
In January, several artists, including such icons as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, pulled or threatened to pull their content from Spotify in protest against the comedian’s alleged spreading of misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines.
Back then, Spotify responded by saying that it will be adding a “content advisory” to any podcast episodes that address the coronavirus, directing users to “trusted sources” on the pandemic such as data from the government and health experts. Rogan said he was “very happy” with that decision.