Betrayed by Spotify


I confess, I was naïve. I wanted to affiliate with a streaming service that I felt okay about, both for my own listening pleasure and for streaming my music. My music is available on lots of steaming sites but Spotify was the lingua franca of the bunch. I began my relationship as a tiny fish in Spotify’s pond well before CEO Daniel Ek’s phenomenally ill-advised decision to enter into an exclusive podcasting deal with Joe Rogan.


When I joined Spotify, it was universally known as a music streaming service. Full stop.

But Spotify had other aspirations. I didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention. I hardly knew of any podcasts other than Robert Plant’s. I don’t hold it against Spotify that they wanted to branch out. Most social media companies want to become something they aren’t.

So I had no idea that Joe Rogan was even on Spotify until recently. I only knew Joe Rogan as the shock-jock wannabe who sometimes said idiotic things on his show, and who often had even more idiotic guests. 

So Neil Young was the wake up call for me—and it was a decidedly rude awakening. I don’t want to pull my music or cancel my account. I want Spotify to change.

Spotify’s exclusive with Joe Rogan is akin to an exclusive running shoe deal with an athlete. Every such contract has an out-clause that cancels the deal if the athlete behaves in such a way as to damage the Brand. But Joe Rogan bragged about how there would be no such constraints on his “content.” Spotify knew what it had purchased—a loose cannon with a large following.

So they willingly, knowingly, damaged their brand of sustaining music in the streaming world. Yes, they pay poorly. It’s appalling. But musicians also need exposure and Spotify gave them that. That was their brand.

When it comes to Covid (and other subjects), Joe Rogan is a bit like the proverbial semi-charismatic, semi-jock smartass uncle who makes an ass of himself a few pops in. And since Covid he has swung dangerously to the dark side. Like the uncle who says he would have “loved” to have been at the Capitol on January 6 if only he had known what a “wild time” it was going to be.

Such a waste of a sunny disposition.

Joe Rogan brings more unsavory influences into your life than an intestinal parasite. He’s only the vehicle, right? That’s his superpower. His Covid coverage has been dangerously irresponsible and he knows it. He is dog-whistling to make a buck—a big buck. That’s his brand. That’s what he stands for and it’s all he stands for. 

So fine, free speech, right? No. It’s a shoe sponsorship deal and Joe’s shoe stinks.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek knew all of Rogan’s propensities when he cut the deal, but it was worth it because Ek was looking for…a different profile…in his audience—one that flies in the face of the credibility of the music streaming service that built his little playground to begin with.

As to Ek’s invisible content boundaries… Not there. Dangerous lies…shouting “Fire!” in the theater…all allowed. And now he wants to walk the dog back…one step? No.

Here’s how to fix it: 1: Daniel Ek, appear on a credible show like Kara Swisher’s podcast Sway to answer some real questions from a hard-nosed pro about your brand. I’m sure she’ll have you. 2: Have Joe Rogan host Anthony Fauci every broadcast day for a week. 3: Give 10 additional accredited medical professionals a platform on Rogan’s show during the following month. 4: Daniel, shut up about not censuring your “content providers.” You created the problem. You did the shoe deal in the form of an exclusive licensing deal “worth more than $100 million” (~Wall Street Journal). Deal with it.

And one more thing, Daniel, quit dissembling. You don’t want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, you really don’t.

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