Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has found himself in even more scalding water after holding firm on his decision to continue platforming Joe Rogan — even after more than 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast were quietly removed from the streaming platform, many featuring slurs or other derogatory language.
In an internal company letter addressed to the Spotify team, Ek wrote: “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”
In an effort to subdue more criticism, the CEO committed to an incremental investment of $100 million put toward developing and marketing music and audio materials from “historically marginalized groups,” a move that even raised the ire of controversial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. “I do love the attempt to buy off the woke by saying he’ll spend ‘an incremental investment of $100 million’ on music and audio from ‘historically marginalized groups,’” he tweeted Monday.
The dollar amount Ek plans to spread across this vague subgroup of creators mirrors the exact reported value of the deal Spotify struck to acquire exclusive rights to The Joe Rogan Experience.
Last week, musician India Arie announced plans to remove her catalog from the service citing not just the Covid misinformation that sparked the initial pushback against Rogan, but also his use of racial slurs.
“What I am talking about is respect — who gets it and who doesn’t,” Arie wrote. “Paying musicians a fraction of a penny? And him $100 [million]? This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep. I’m tired.”
Ek’s memo acknowledges the controversies and backlash around Rogan that have led both musicians and podcasters alike to remove their content from Spotify. The CEO insists that he “strongly condemns” the host’s repeated use of the n-word and deemed some of his other comments “incredibly hurtful” and unrepresentative of company values. But, ultimately, Ek lands on the defensive use of the “he’s changed” card.
“I think it’s important you’re aware that we’ve had conversations with Joe and his team about some of the content in his show, including his history of using some racially insensitive language,” Ek continued. “Following these discussions and his own reflections, he chose to remove a number of episodes from Spotify.”