Daniel Ek has confirmed the removal of several episodes of the Joe Rogan podcast following controversy over the host using N-word in them.
The Spotify CEO called his comments “incredibly hurtful” but revealed they would keep Rogan’s podcast on the streaming service. In a letter sent to Spotify staff on Sunday (via The Verge), Ek mentions that he “doesn’t believe silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they’re crossed, but undoing voices is a slippery slope.
“Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful — I want to make it clear that they don’t represent the values of this company,” Ek wrote in the memo, a copy of which you can see below. “I know this situation leaves many of you feeling exhausted, frustrated and speechless.”
“We should have clear lines around content and act when they’re crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope,” he wrote. “Looking at the issue more broadly, it is critical thinking and open debate that fuels real and needed progress.”
Ek then reiterates that Spotify is only a platform and not a publisher of his podcast and therefore not directly responsible for what is said on the podcast. He goes on to pledge a $100 million investment in audio content for marginalized groups.
Ek says he’s committing $100 million (the same amount that would have been paid to exclusively distribute the Joe Rogan show) to licensing, developing and marketing music and other audio content. by creators of historically marginalized groups. The company is also increasing the number of experts it consults on how to balance user safety and “creator expression” with more details to come.
You can read Ek’s full letter below.
The Spotify Team,
There are no words I can say to adequately express how deeply sorry I am for how the Joe Rogan Experience controversy continues to impact each of you. Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful, but I want to make it clear that they do not represent the values of this company. I know this situation leaves many of you feeling drained, frustrated and ignored.
I think it’s important for you to know that we’ve had conversations with Joe and his team about some of the content on his show, including his history of using racially insensitive language. Following these discussions and his own thoughts, he chose to remove a number of episodes from Spotify. He also issued his own apology over the weekend.
While I strongly condemn what Joe said and agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some will want more. And I want to make one point clear – I don’t believe silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they’re crossed, but undoing voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it is critical thinking and open debate that fuels real and needed progress.
Another criticism I keep hearing from many of you is that it’s not just The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify; it boils down to our direct relationship with him. During the town hall last week, I explained to you that we are not the publisher of JRE. But the perception due to our exclusive license implies the opposite. So I struggled with how that perception fits with our values.
While we believe in an open platform as a core company value, we must also believe in empowering all types of creators, including those from underrepresented communities and diverse backgrounds. We have already done a lot in this area, but I think we can do even more. I am therefore committing to an additional investment of $100 million for the licensing, development and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized bands. This will greatly increase our efforts in these areas. While some might want us to go a different route, I believe more talk on more issues can be very effective in improving the status quo and improving the conversation as a whole.
I deeply regret that you carry so much of this burden. I also want to be transparent in setting the expectation that, in order to achieve our goal of becoming the global audio platform, these types of disputes will be inevitable. For me, I return to focus on our mission to unleash the potential of human creativity and enable over a billion people to enjoy the work of what we believe to be over 50 million creators. This mission makes these clashes worth it.
I’ve told you this many times over the past week, but I think it’s essential that we listen to each other carefully and consider how we can and should do better. I’ve spent this time having many conversations with people inside and outside of Spotify – some have been supportive while others have been incredibly harsh, but all of them got me thinking.
In particular, I’m thinking about additional steps we can take to further balance creator expression with user safety. I’ve asked our teams to increase the number of outside experts we consult on these efforts and look forward to sharing more details.
Your passion for this company and our mission has made a difference in the lives of so many listeners and creators around the world. I hope you won’t lose sight of that. It’s this ability to focus and improve Spotify even on our toughest days that has helped us build the platform we have. We have a clear opportunity to learn and grow together from this challenge and I am ready to take it on.
I know it’s difficult for these conversations to happen so publicly, and I continue to encourage you to reach out directly to your leaders, your HR partners, or myself if you need support or resources for yourself or your team. .