Spotify’s backlash over Joe Rogan never stood a chance

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Five years after the #DeleteUber hashtag ushered in Big Tech’s first broad boycott — and failed to gain long-term traction — calls to do the same to Spotify over Joe Rogan spat out after barely a week.

On Monday morning, the world of capital rallied behind the Swedish streaming company, sending the company’s shares soaring more than 12% – a rise which, if sustained, would be one of its best days on the market. New York Stock Exchange – despite important artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell rushing the platform’s most popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, spreading misinformation about COVID-19. The tension came to a head before the markets opened with Rogan taking for instagram to offer a semi-apology for giving the mic to COVID cranks, saying he will change his format around those controversial guests. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek noted the company would label podcast episodes with misinformation. Everything was very neat and sounded good even though it was very little. It’s the playbook now, and it works.

Let’s put the business into perspective. Spotify, headquartered in Sweden and valued at around $36 billion, is huge on almost every level, with more than 173 million listeners and the vast majority of its money coming from subscribers who pay around $10. per month to listen to some 70 million tracks. This width is important. Since 2019, Spotify has been trying to move away from just being a music streaming app and big Foot his way to becoming one of podcasting’s biggest streamers, even trying to rival the live flash-in-the-pan Clubhouse audio app. Crucially, it’s also pushed to attract more listeners globally – so much so that, while the US is still the app’s largest listener base, it represents a diminishing proportion of all of its revenue. .

These global trends tend to be bad for tech companies. American consumers, as a whole, spend far more than anywhere else in the world. To take the example of another tech giant, Facebook, the average revenue per US user on that platform reported 11 time as much money as those in the Asia-Pacific region according to the latest report from its parent company Annual Report. It’s no wonder Spotify’s share price fell halfway from its peak from last February to last week: US user growth has leveled off and new listeners have been spending less money .

This brings us to The Joe Rogan Experience, which Spotify lists in its regulatory filings as a moneymaker. It’s fundamentally different from, say, seeing your friends and family members posting fake COVID information on their Facebook feeds. Even though Rogan has positioned himself as a regular guy — the kind of person you’d expect to have quirky social media posts — he’s an institution in his own right with an audience of 11 million monthly listeners. Rogan’s podcast is so popular because it hears, for what it’s worth, from people’s perspectives, no matter how kooky or mainstream they are. Bernie Sanders was the guest, as was Kanye West. The influence and controversial tend to make money, and I don’t think Spotify made their $100 million deal to license the show exclusively with their eyes closed. After an early debate over whether Spotify would allow episodes containing Alex Jones, you can still stream them. In his ten-minute Monday morning Instagram video, Rogan reduced his formula seven times to something like “having interesting conversations”, but the reality is that he made a name for himself by leaning heavily to criticize the leftovers. . political correctness in comedy, trans peopleand vaccination mandates. He repeated false stories that leftists were responsible for the Oregon wildfires, a statement for which he later apologized. Last year, Ek struggled with his team over Rogan’s comments that were seen as transphobic. And Rogan recently took on Jordan Peterson, another ‘intellectual dark web’ traveler who spoke out against climate science, prompting outrage from scientists in this field. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

So Spotify’s bet here is that its users won’t care – and as for the people who do and quit, they probably won’t miss it all that much. Why would it be? Spotify is quite reviled by artists for how little it pays per stream, which can to be so small at $0.0015 a piece, but it was able to appeal to artists like Taylor Swift and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who called the platform “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” According to eMarketer, Spotify has around 45 million paying subscribers in the US, just over half of its listener base here. Of that, how many are really going to give up on Rogan? Even Prince Harry and Meghan are blanket. Considering that the company publishes an annual monitoring report called Spotify wrapped for each of its users, listing their most streamed artists and micro-genres, the company probably has a pretty deep knowledge of its users’ personality profiles and is betting that the number of people leaving will be manageable.

And finally, if someone answers the call to #DeleteSpotify, what are their options? There’s Apple, the world’s largest company by value – not exactly an inspiring choice for anyone trying to show their militant bona fide, given its dodgy character the story on human rights in China. Tidal, the streaming upstart who had Jay-Z’s imprimatur, was recently bought by Jack Dorsey’s payment company. Other platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud don’t have the catalog to compete. And Neil Young, the guy who tried to start its own streaming service and has fought music industry executives like David Geffen in the past, directed his fans to stream his music through Amazon Music. Damn Amazon? Having Young in the arms of Jeff Bezos, a man who became the second richest person on the planet amid his company’s COVID sales disinformation and counterfeit maskswhich the company did not inform warehouse employees about COVID epidemics and has relaxed on security conditions, is not a clear or satisfying choice for anyone who might be angry with Rogan.

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