A new report indicates that Spotify may have paid at least $200million for the exclusive rights to Joe Rogan’s podcast, double the figure that was previously reported.
The streaming giant secured an exclusive license to host The Joe Rogan Experience in May 2020, when it was widely reported the controversial podcast host had been paid over $100million as part of the deal.
However, “two people familiar with the details of the transaction” have since claimed to The New York Times that the three-and-a-half-year deal was actually worth twice what was initially believed: at least $200million. Spotify has yet to publicly comment on this report.
The Times points out Spotify had previously purchased whole content companies – podcast network Gimlet Media and digital media brand The Ringer – both for slightly less than $200million each.
In recent weeks, Spotify has come under fire for hosting The Joe Rogan Experience, its biggest podcast in the US and many other countries, with an estimated per-episode listenership of around 11million people.
Last month, Neil Young requested the platform pull his catalogue, citing “false information about vaccines” being spread on the platform and specifically targeting Rogan’s podcast. “They can have Rogan or Young,” the singer-songwriter wrote in a post on his website at the time. “Not both.”
Young’s boycott came after hundreds of scientists and medical professionals shared an open letter to Spotify calling on them to address COVID misinformation, specifically calling Rogan’s platforming of false vaccine claims “not only objectionable and offensive but also medically and culturally dangerous”.
Following Young’s exit, artists including Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, Young’s former bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, and more also withdrew their music from Spotify, and the company’s stock had fallen by 13 per cent when it reported their fourth-quarter earnings earlier this month.
In response to the controversy, CEO Daniel Ek announced that Spotify would be adding content advisories to podcast episodes discussing vaccines, directing listeners to the platform’s dedicated COVID-19 information hub.
Rogan responded to the boycott himself in a video on his Instagram page, telling fans: “I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view.”
“I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m going to do my best in the future to balance things out,” he continued. “If I pissed you off, I’m sorry.”
Shortly after the controversy surrounding misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience, footage emerged of Rogan repeatedly using the n-word on the podcast. Spotify pulled some 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience as a result, reportedly at Rogan’s request.
In a letter sent to Spotify staff, Ek said that while he “strongly condemn[s]” Rogan’s past use of the slur, he “[does] not believe that silencing Joe is the answer” and that “canceling voices is a slippery slope”.
Rogan also apologised for his actions, calling it “the most regretful and shameful thing I’ve had to talk about publicly”.
He went on to claim the compilation of clips was made up of footage “taken out of context of 12 years of conversations on my podcast”, but that he had since come to agree that “there’s no context in which a white person is ever allowed to say that word” and had not used the word in years.