Spotify, arguably the world’s most popular streaming service, has encountered serious controversy the past few weeks surrounding its hosting and support of Joe Rogan’s podcast on their platform. The popular podcaster has been accused of spreading false narratives about the coronavirus, and criticized for his past use of racial slurs in episodes of his podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience”. Rogan has an audience of roughly 11 million listeners per episode, and with that comes a sense of civil responsibility only some can comprehend.
Spotify has made it clear they are not censoring Rogan by removing his podcast from their platform. In 2020 Spotify signed an estimated $100 million multi-year licensing agreement with Rogan to bring his podcast to their streaming service exclusively. Amidst controversy, Spotify CEO Daniel Elk addressed backlash against Rogan by stating “We don’t change our policies based on one creator, nor do we change it based on any media cycle or call from anyone else.”
In response to Spotify’s lack of action taken against Rogan and his podcast, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and other popular artists demanded that the streaming service giant remove their entire music catalog from its platform. “They can have Rogan or Young, not both,” Young exclaimed in an open letter to his manager and record label, a move that lost Young nearly 60% of his income in streams. In clear response to the spreading of false narratives regarding the coronavirus, Young went on to say that “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform.”
Young’s initial decision came after a group of more than 250 scientists, doctors, nurses, and researchers wrote an open letter to Spotify calling out the coronavirus misinformation presented on Rogan’s podcast. “By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals.” These medical professionals went on to urge Spotify to not cancel Rogan’s podcast, but create a policy that provides listeners with a warning about misinformation when consuming content that has not been proved accurate.
Since the onset of the Joe Rogan controversy, Spotify Premium’s cancellation page has increased 196%, nearly tripling in traffic. With monthly fees starting at $9.99 and going up to $15.99 for a family plan shared between 6 accounts, recent earnings reports show Spotify had hit 180 million paying subscribers. While increase in traffic to a cancellation page does not necessarily mean that current subscribers took action and unsubscribed from the widely used streaming service, it is a huge spike and shows that people were passionate enough to look into it.
The Siskiyou asked students around campus what they thought of the Spotify controversy, and a source that wishes to remain anonymous stated: “I think that what Neil Young and other artists are doing is awesome, even if they lose money. Because it shows that they are standing up for what they believe in, and I think that’s really admirable.” The statement seems to be the general consensus among students regarding the current controversy, and the subsequent consequences of Spotify’s decision to keep on the popular podcaster.