Spotify CEO says canceling Joe Rogan isn’t ‘the answer’



Joe Rogan has put Spotify in a tough spot, but the streaming giant isn’t ready to part with the popular podcast broadcaster despite fierce criticism over comments about its coronavirus vaccine and its use. racial slurs.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also said in a message to employees Sunday that Rogan’s racist language was “extremely hurtful” and that the host was behind the row’s removal. dozens of episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience”.

“While I strongly condemn what Joe said and I agree with the decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some people will want more,” Ek said in the note. . “And I want to make one point clear – I don’t believe Joe silence is the answer.”

The letter is the clearest indication yet of where Spotify stands in terms of Rogan’s fate with the company as several musicians, including Neil Young and India.Arie, have pulled their work from the streaming service to protest and others may follow. Spotify is said to have paid $100 million to host Rogan’s podcast exclusively.

“We should have clear boundaries on content and action when they are crossed, but voice cancellation is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it is critical thinking and open debate that will create real and necessary progress,” Ek writes.

He said he was “deeply sorry” for the impact the controversy had had on Spotify employees. Rogan apologized Saturday for the use of the N word in some past episodes.

Experts say Spotify’s move may not be suitable for an increasingly polarized country, on the one hand, where there is a heightened sensitivity to race and misinformation about vaccines.

“If Spotify says, ‘We can’t release him. He has the right to say what he wants, ‘that continues where there is this tacit support to say racist things on these platforms,'” said Adia Harvey Wingfield, professor of sociology at the University Washington University in St. Louis, said in advance that Ek’s letter had been released.

John Wihbey, a Northeastern University professor and expert on emerging technologies, said the streaming site must also decide whether offensive language is allowed elsewhere on its app. , which features songs with racist, homophobic and anti-immigrant messages.

“There’s some real self-examination to do beyond Joe,” Wihbey said Sunday. “This is an important moment to reckon with for entertainment and streaming platforms to see where the window is, where the line is.”

In its letter, Ek announced a $100 million investment to license, develop and market “music and audio content from historically marginalized groups” without giving details. details.

Rogan’s public troubles began on January 24, when Young demanded that his music be removed over concerns Rogan was fueling skepticism about a COVID-19 vaccine. Other artists followed suit, including Joni Mitchell and Roxane Gay.

Spotify says it will soon add a warning to all podcasts discussing COVID-19, directing listeners to factual, up-to-date information from scientists and public health experts.

The scrutiny intensified when a composite video emerged last week showing Rogan repeatedly using the word N. Arie posted it on her Instagram account, using the hashtag #DeleteSpotify.

“They take the money that comes from streaming and they pay this guy $100 million, but they pay us like 0.003% a dime,” the Grammy winner wrote. “I don’t want to generate money to pay for that.”

Rogan apologized in an Instagram video on Saturday, saying the profanity was the “most regrettable and shameful thing” he had ever had to deal with and that he hadn’t used the N-word in many years. five.

Ek told The Wall Street Journal last week that he took responsibility for “reacting too slowly” to criticism over vaccine misinformation. The company took five days to publicly respond to Young.

“It is clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to generally accepted information from the medical and scientific communities to guide us through the times. unprecedented,” Ek continued in a statement.

Rogan is an uncanny mix of shock host and public policy debater, art and culture, Wihbey says, describing his brand as a “brother” of America”.

Wihbey said that his comment was clearly racist, but he hopes that Rogan will take this as an opportunity to discuss fundamentally issues of race and vaccines in future episodes. future. Otherwise, his audience might not be able to hear the discussions, Wihbey said.

“I really think that gathering this kind of audience is important,” he said. “He can say things that I think can be a guide.”

Wingfield said the controversy could be positive if it starts to move into discussions about racial prejudice.

“I think if Joe Rogan learns from this experience and becomes the driving force behind that conversation, it could be really valuable,” she said. “But I want to stress again that it’s a pretty big if and I don’t know if it will ever come to be.”

Spotify reports 406 million monthly active users, up nearly 20% from last year, and advertising has grown in large part thanks to podcasts. According to experts, musicians still generate the majority of Spotify’s profits. The company had 31% of the 524 million music streaming subscriptions worldwide in Q2 2021, more than double that of Apple Music in second place, according to Midia Research.

Spotify Technology’s share price fell 0.5% early Monday in after-hours trading. It rose 9.2% on Friday.

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