Spotify is not canceling Joe Rogan. Two weeks into an evolving and far-reaching controversy over its star podcaster, who has been accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, and condemned for his past use of racial slurs, Spotify has faced growing pressure to take a stronger stance about the podcasts it hosts.
But in a memo to employees over the weekend, Daniel Ek, the company’s chief executive, discussed the recent removal of a number of episodes and made it clear that it would not drop Rogan’s show, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” That show has been exclusive to Spotify since 2020, when the company made a licensing deal with Rogan that has been reported to be worth $100 million or more.
“I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote in the memo, which Spotify provided to The New York Times. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”
Ek also confirmed that Spotify recently removed dozens of episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” after a compilation video was shared online by the singer India.Arie showing Rogan repeatedly used racial slurs on his show. In a video over the weekend, Rogan apologized and called it “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly,” though he also said that at the times he made those comments — over 12 years of his podcast, Rogan said — he had believed that they were acceptable in context. Many commentators found that apology insufficient.
In his memo, Ek said that Rogan made the decision to remove the episodes containing racial slurs, which appear to number about 70, after meetings with Spotify executives and after “his own reflections.”
In his letter, Ek alluded to growing employee discontent about that position, and said he was “wrestling with how this perception squares with our values.”
“I also want to be transparent,” he added, “in setting the expectation that in order to achieve our goal of becoming the global audio platform, these kinds of disputes will be inevitable.”