On Thursday, The Times reported the streaming services’ exclusive arrangement with The Joe Rogan Experience was priced at “at least $200 million” for three and a half years, according to two anonymous sources — far exceeding the originally reported deal sum of more than $100 million.
This puts the former Fear Factor host and comedian’s deal in the same ballpark as Spotify’s acquisition of entire audio studios — like Gimlet and Ringer — for slightly less than $200 million. The spending was all part of the company’s plan to become a premier destination for all audio content, not just music. Music, for the streaming service, has not proven to not incredibly profitable, with two thirds of the profits going right back to music rights holders, on both the master recording and composition sides.
Rogan is currently the top podcaster, in terms of audience, in the U.S. as well as in 92 other markets, making him one of the most influential entertainers in the world. Known for hosting guests from all walks of life — from a weed-smoking Elon Musk to a conspiracy spouting Alex Jones — in freewheeling discussions about a myriad of topics, Rogan’s recent episodes that included misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine sparked an exodus of musicians from the platform.
In January, 270 medical professionals and scientists wrote to Spotify, raising concerns about COVID-related misinformation on Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. Though Spotify made internal assurances the company would take the issue seriously, it was forced to acknowledge the issue publicly when musicians like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen guitarist Nils Lofgren boycotted the streaming service over the same issue shortly thereafter.
Spotify responded in a statement, posted to the company’s website on Jan. 30, by adding content advisory warnings to podcast episodes that discussed COVID-19.
R&B artist India.Arie then shared unearthed footage to social media of Rogan using the n-word repeatedly and making other racist remarks.
The podcaster replied in a nearly six-minute long video admitting the resurfaced video was the “most regretful and shameful thing I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” Later, 70 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience were removed from Spotify. Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO, addressed the issue in a letter to his employees, apologizing for the “deeply hurtful” remarks and “racially insensitive language” which surfaced from Rogan. He added those remarks did “not represent the values of the company.”
Spotify did not respond to requests for comment.