Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek apologized to staff for “incredibly hurtful” comments made by podcast host Joe Rogan but said he would not “silence” the popular presenter.
Spotify removed about 70 episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast from its app over the weekend after musician India.Arie posted a video of Rogan using the N-word multiple times on his show.
The episodes included a 2015 interview with far-right commentator Chuck Johnson, in which Johnson told Rogan that black people had a genetic “proclivity to violence.”
“Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful – I want to make it clear that they don’t represent the values of this company,” Ek told Spotify staff in an email Sunday evening.
But he added: “I want to make one point very clear – I don’t believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”
Over the past two weeks, artists including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Arie have asked to remove their songs from Spotify in protest against Rogan. Young and Mitchell’s boycott was a response to a December podcast episode in which Rogan interviewed Robert Malone, a virologist who researched mRNA technologies and is critical of coronavirus vaccines.
Arie criticized Rogan’s comments on race. “I think that Joe Rogan has the right to say what he wants to say. I also think that I have the right to say what I want to say, ”she said in a video posted to Instagram in which she included clips of Rogan using the N-word. “Where do I stand on this? He shouldn’t even uttering the word. ”
As the crisis has unfolded, Ek has tried to assure critics, both from his own staff as well as prominent musicians, while sticking by Rogan, the star of a blockbuster show that is crucial for Spotify’s podcast growth strategy.
Spotify paid about $ 100mn to bring Rogan’s show to its app exclusively. Arie and other black artists have complained that Spotify was giving Rogan millions of dollars while paying a fraction of a penny per stream of their music.
In response to the controversy, Ek on Sunday said he would spend $ 100mn for the “licensing, development and marketing” of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups.
As a criticism of Spotify swells, Ek has claimed the company is a platform and not a publisher responsible for content, an argument used by Facebook in the past. However, Spotify’s $ 100mn licensing deal with Rogan blurred that line, Ek conceded on Sunday.
“We are not the publisher of [the Joe Rogan Experience]. But perception due to our exclusively license implies otherwise. So I’ve been wrestling with how this perception squares with our values, ”he said.
Spotify has removed more than 110 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience from its app in total.
Rogan on Saturday apologized over his use of the N-word on previous podcasts. “It makes me sick watching that video,” he said on Instagram. “It’s not my word to use. I’m well aware of that now. “
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