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Spotify’s Joe Rogan Dilemma

image credit: Independent

published by Chad Evans
April 9, 2021 at 8:33 p.m.

Who is Joe Rogan?

Joe Rogan began his entertainment career as a stand-up comedian. After dropping out of the University of Massachusetts Boston, his antics at the gym and Taekwando school proved humorous enough to attempt open-mic night at Stitches comedy club in Boston. After years of odd jobs and comedy gigs, Rogan, known for his blue comedy, struggled to succeed in New York City’s cultured and sophisticated comedy scene.

Moving to LA in 1994, Rogan got his first big break on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour. Using footage of his performance, his manager, Jeff Sussman, procured Rogan a lucrative deal with Disney. The agreement put Rogan in the spotlight on shows like Hardball and News Radio.

Although not yet a household name, Rogan’s career continued as an Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator and Fear Factor host. During this time, Rogan’s stand-up career flourished, yielding several comedy specials. Finally, in 2009 Rogan launched his Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, downloaded over 190 million times a month.

Spotify’s $100 Million Deal for Exclusive Rights to the Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Experience is a hot commodity these days. Hoping to cash in on its popularity and draw new users to its streaming platform, Spotify cemented a $100 million deal with the pop culture icon. The arrangement gives Spotify exclusive rights to all Joe Rogan Experience content. While Rogan’s channel still operates on YouTube, it will eventually phase out in deference to its new home on Spotify.

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Joe Rogan initially seems to have believed that his deal with Spotify wouldn’t alter the show. As a Podcaster, he was free to speak his mind, as the medium is simply a format, much like MP3. YouTube is reluctant to censor or ban any lucrative content.

“It will be the exact same show… I am not going to be an employee of Spotify. We’re going to be working with the same crew doing the exact same show.”

Since joining Spotify, the company deleted 42 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience due to objectionable content. Amid these redactions, Spotify employees remain dissatisfied with the company’s embrace of a controversial personality, with some calling for his removal.

Controversy Surrounding Rogan

Joe Rogan isn’t for everyone. Although his programming shows some interest in simplified versions of intellectually sophisticated subjects, such as theoretical physics and social science, it often degrades into boorish, immature, and sometimes offensive lockerroom blather.

Rogan’s repeated disregard for transgender individuals seems to garner the most disdain from LGBTQ rights groups. Beyond this, he embraced and popularized Gavin McInnes and other white supremacists while indulging in conspiracy theories and promoting questionable supplements.

Image Credit: YouTube          Joe Rogan and Gavin McInness discuss a debunked theory that childhood sexual assault causes homosexuality. A simple web search reveals academic information about this subject; however, research is not the Joe Rogan Experience’s strong suit. Any professional network would refrain from such conjecture. With experienced researchers, writers, and standards, even biased cable news channels don’t resort to presenting incorrect and insulting hypotheses. It’s more likely that sexual assault affected Joe Rogan and Gavin McInness, and, like many QAnon and conspiracy theorists, they believe that pedophiles run the world. They don’t; however, the theory sheds light on the alt-right’s psychological motivations.

The 42 episodes deleted by Spotify include interviews with controversial alt-right personality Alex Jones. The company permitted a new interview with the provocative InfoWars host to remain, as Rogan produced the program under Spotify’s agreement. Such a move, coupled with a similar allowance of anti-transgender content, seems to indicate Spotify’s intention is one of appeasement and appearance more than social advancement.

The strategy may work, as Rogan’s most impertinent output seems to be in the past. Though some may bristle at his opinions of LGBTQ activism, Rogan’s checkered past seems to offend clusters of marginalized people. By deleting the episodes, Spotify revises Rogan for a new audience. By ignoring his controversial stance on several issues, the company risks alienating both employees and customers. With an abundance of tech corporations to work at and listen to, Spotify’s Joe Rogan deal is a risky proposition.

The stock market seems to prefer that Spotify leave Joe Rogan alone. The day after removing episodes of the Joe Rogan ExperienceSpotify stock dropped a whopping 8.8%. The company’s value decreased by $4.81 billion just from removing some of Rogan’s most inflammatory content.

Spotify must maintain a careful balance between appeasing the market, its employees, fans, and Joe Rogan. Although Rogan signed the deal, future moderation could sour the agreement, resulting in legal action.

Rogan is a risky proposition, but he could prove profitable for the popular streamer. Rogan will likely rein in his content, with Spotify cutting him slack for occasionally bashing marginalized people. After all, this is part of Joe’s popularity with mainstream American audiences.

By demeaning the downtrodden, Rogan gains favor from “deplorables” and those with a similar trajectory — a large contingent of his base. Major networks, with standards and practices departments, won’t go for this. You won’t see Joe Rogan, as he appears today, on NBC. The rules of engagement are more relaxed on Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and to a recently lesser extent, on Twitter.

Profit always comes before society with this new, malignant breed of corporate media that quickly covers up the violence and hatred it creates with a novel, convenient hash-tag social media campaign. It blows over, we move on, this new media grows even more powerful, and then it happens again, on a larger scale.

Will Joe Rogan Choose Profit Over Liberty?

A self-described libertarian, critics may contend that Joe Rogan sold out to Spotify, allowing them to do as they please with his content. By Rogan’s admission, he doesn’t seem to mind Spotify deleting some episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience, which won’t be available elsewhere, due to his exclusive contract:

“There were a few episodes they didn’t want on their platform, and I was like ‘okay, I don’t care’,”

Rogan’s statement seems to indicate that only a few episodes faced removal. With 42 episodes removed, possibly more to come, and an uprising among some Spotify employees, the Joe Rogan Experience seems to be an albatross for the Swedish streaming giant.

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