Joe Rogan Spotify Controversy Explained
Joe Rogan has waded into yet another controversy surrounding his Spotify podcast, resulting in music legends Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removing their music from the platform as a form of protest against Rogan.
If this is your first time hearing about the Joe Rogan Spotify controversy, allow us to fill you in.
But first, let's start at the beginning: In 2020, Spotify struck an exclusivity deal with Rogan for his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. The deal allegedly cost the platform more than $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The podcast, its guests and host have been criticized for plugging controversial opinions about a variety of topics, including spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2021, 270 doctors, physicians and science educators wrote an open letter to Spotify. In it, they called out several conspiracy theories aired on The Joe Rogan Experience and urged the platform to implement some sort of misinformation policy.
The move came after Rogan welcomed Dr. Robert Malone onto his Dec. 31 episode. Malone has been suspended from Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation. While on the show, the controversial scientist promoted the theory that people have been "hypnotized" into believing certain things about COVID.
Rogan's podcast has an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, according to the letter. The medical professionals who signed the open letter pointed out the inherent risk of allowing misinformation to be spread unchecked to so many.
Neil Young took a stand
First, iconic musician Neil Young took a stand against Joe Rogan and the misinformation being shared on his podcast. In doing so, the artist set himself up for a stand-off with Spotify.
Last week the rock legend demanded that his management team and record label remove his discography from Spotify in a since-deleted letter, according to Rolling Stone.
“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he wrote. "They can have Rogan or Young. Not both."
Most of Young's music has since been removed from the platform.
He explained his decision and hit back against claims that he was a proponent of censorship in an open letter on his website.
"I support free speech," Young wrote. "I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others."
Young also voiced his support other streaming platforms, such as Amazon and Apple Music, as well as claimed that Spotify reduces the quality of sound.
Since then, other celebrities have voiced support for Young.
Joni Mitchell also removed her music from Spotify
Perhaps the most notable celebrity to support Neil Young is Joni Mitchell.
The living legend voiced her agreement with Young in an open letter on her website
"I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify," she wrote. "Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue."
The Los Angeles Times notes that E Street Band musician Nils Lofgren and podcaster Brené Brown followed Young's lead, too. Others including the Foo Fighters were also rumored to join Young but have not yet done so as of publishing time.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle expressed "concerns" about misinformation
In a statement shared with CNN, a spokesperson for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Archewell organization had something to say about the risk of COVID misinformation being shared on platforms like Spotify.
"Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform," they said. "We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis."
It's important to note that the statement does not directly address Rogan. However, it was released following Young and Mitchell's respective decisions to remove their music from Spotify.
Spotify finally weighed in
After a week in the news, on Jan. 30 Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek published a letter on the company's For The Record blog addressing the controversy.
Ek acknowledged that the platform hosts individuals and views that he disagrees with "strongly."
He also stressed the importance of balancing "creator expression" with listener safety.
"It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor[s] while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them," he wrote.
Ek also confirmed that the platform would take several steps to combat disinformation.
For starters, he shared Spotify's "long-standing Platform Rules."
Ek also revealed plans to highlight the Platform Rules so that creators are better aware of them, as well as add content advisory alerts to any podcast episode that discusses COVID.
The move comes after Spotify reportedly suffered some pretty severe losses at the stock market. Datebook reports that the platform took a hit of around $4 billion to its market value in the week after Young put them on blast.
However, Wall Street Journal notes that the app apparently has no plans to remove any of Rogan's controversial podcast episodes.
Rogan released his own statement
That takes us to where we're at today (Jan. 31). The latest person to wade into the controversy is Joe Rogan himself.
Rogan took to Instagram to address the situation in a nearly 10-minute-long video.
In it, he apologized and claimed he was "not trying to promote misinformation" or be intentionally controversial.
“I think there’s a lot of people that have a distorted perception of what I do, maybe based on sound bites or based on headlines of articles that are disparaging," he mused.
Rogan also defended some of his controversial guests as being “very highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished people." He also noted that "they have an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative.”
“I wanted to hear what their opinion is, I had them on and because of that, those episodes in particular were labeled as being dangerous — they had dangerous misinformation,” he added.
Variety notes that Rogan takes issue with the term "misinformation" since opinions on topics such as the efficacy of cloth masks have changed over time. The CDC currently recommends wearing a mask that has "two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric," and fully covers the nose, mouth and chin.
The podcast host speculated about how he could address the controversy moving forward. A possible solution he floated includes bringing people with different views onto his podcast, so that both sides can voice their opinions.
His video has since been viewed more than 4.9 million times.
Watch Rogan's lengthy video for yourself below: