The Real Reason Spotify Can't Afford to Lose the Rogan Battle

The Real Reason Spotify Can't Afford to Lose the Rogan Battle
AP Photo/Gregory Payan

Legacy artists are continuing to mount pressure on Spotify to remove their star podcaster, Joe Rogan, over “misinformation” and other vague transgressions. Perhaps the biggest transgression of all is that Rogan refuses to fit into their narrow, Boomer box.

At first it was funny, the idea of Neil Young thinking he had any leverage over the most popular podcaster in the world; a man they paid nearly $100 million to for the exclusive rights to his groundbreaking program. It has become increasingly concerning as others such as Barbara Streisand and Joni Mitchell have joined in, threatening to pull their music over Rogan’s freedom of speech.

From my vantage point, it seems Spotify and Rogan still have the high ground here. There is a lot at stake, a lot more than the Boomer Brigade understands. It is why Spotify, despite the specter of losing rights to play valuable music, must stand their ground on the Rogan controversy.

Spotify decided years ago that they wanted to become the premier platform for podcasting. They decided to take on Apple, the inventor of podcasting, for the spot and have been making moves ever since. Rogan is their most lucrative investment, but they’ve also been quietly cutting million dollar deals with other popular podcasters you’ve probably never even heard of. Podcasts like The Rewatchables and Last Podcast On the Left have moved their content over to Spotify to great success. Spotify’s user interface is much easier to use and navigate, and it doesn’t require Apple products for optimal functionality. They are well on their way to accomplishing their goal, which is why they felt comfortable spending $100 million on a single podcast.

So think about what happens if they cave on Rogan. Does it end there?

Of course not. We know that nothing is ever good enough for the progressive cranks. An apology requires more apologies, a capitulation requires more capitulation, and so on and so forth. On the left, there is no redemption, only a constant churning of penance, punishment, and proving one’s progressivism. Wash, rinse, repeat. If the Boomer Brigade succeeds in ousting Rogan, they will turn their attention to the myriad of other performers on the site who don’t toe the Branch Covidian line…and there are hundreds, maybe even thousands. Including my own.

Spotify cannot pursue their goal of owning the podcast market without podcasts, and they can’t entice new and lucrative podcasters when they can’t even guarantee that they will stand up for those podcasters against cancel culture.

In the interest of being fair to the Boomer Brigade here, Spotify and other streaming platforms devour the royalties and profits of the artists they feature. Their pay structure is notoriously unfair, with even the most famous of artists making mere percentage points of pennies per stream. The entire system is suspect, and set up to punish the creators while rewarding the corporation. That’s been a problem in the music industry since the beginning, but it’s been exacerbated by the streaming revolution.

Perhaps these artists are simply looking for a good reason to pull their work from Spotify without seeming selfish. Perhaps they are just taking advantage of the Rogan issue to release themselves from their contracts, something they’ve longed to do for a while. It wouldn’t be surprising and frankly, it wouldn’t even be unfair. They are also on a losing end here and in the future, we really should have a public conversation about how these streaming services rob musicians and artists.

However, in the case of Rogan, Spotify is in the right here. How long they can withstand, with mounting pressure, will be up to them and their bank account. So far, they seem to be falling down on the side of their original business plan. My suspicion is that few of these people in the Boomer Brigade are actually able to decide if their music streams to Spotify or not, and even fewer actually want that; they just want the specter of the virtue signaling.

We live in interesting times. While I’m not a fan of Spotify’s treatment of music rights and royalties, I am a huge fan of their podcasting side, and I sincerely hope they continue to stand by Rogan and all of us.

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