In his memo, Ek said Rogan made the decision to remove the episodes, which appear to number around 70, after meetings with Spotify executives “and his own thoughts.”
Ek also said Spotify would invest $100 million for the “licensing, development and marketing” of music and other forms of audio “from historically marginalized bands.” What that would entail was not immediately clear. Spotify licenses most of its music to record labels and music distributors, and music by black and other minority artists is among the most popular on the platform; Spotify also promoted minority podcasters with its “Its high” program, for example. Company representatives did not respond to a request for clarification.
Since Jan. 24, when Neil Young demanded his music be removed from Spotify, citing complaints from medical professionals about Covid-19 misinformation on Rogan’s show, the company has faced a mini boycott from from musicians and constant reviews online. Joni Mitchell, Arie and Young’s occasional bandmates at Crosby, Stills and Nash, have all released their music. A handful of other artists, like the alternative group Failure, followed suit, while others staged protests of all kinds. The group Stomachfor example, added a “Remove Spotify” banner to its own Spotify profile page and explained on social media that for many artists, removing their music from the service is easier said than done.
In media circles, Spotify’s stance on Rogan has also raised questions about the responsibility of online companies to police content on their platforms. In recent years, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others have come under frequent attack for the content they host, usually about politics or the pandemic. They responded with various measures, but tended to avoid calling themselves publishers.
This position has been more difficult for Spotify, given its exclusive deal with Rogan. In his note, Ek doubled down on recent comments denying that Spotify is Rogan’s publisher. At a company town hall last week, he told employees that despite its exclusive deal with Rogan, Spotify had no pre-approval of its shows and could only remove its episodes if they violated the guidelines. content from Spotify. (Spotify first published these platform rules last week; it was unclear if the episodes that were removed last week violated them.)