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Spotify CEO defends Joe Rogan deal amid growing backlash

“We don’t change our policies based on one creator, nor do we change it based on any media cycle or call from anyone else," Daniel Ek said on a call.
A Spotify Ltd. Press Conference As Company Launches In Japan
Daniel Ek, a co-founder and the CEO of Spotify AB, at a news conference in Tokyo in September 2016. Akio Kon / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed the backlash against Joe Rogan after a growing list of artists said they were pulling their music from the platform over its failure to take action against Covid-19 misinformation.

“We don’t change our policies based on one creator, nor do we change it based on any media cycle or call from anyone else,” Ek said Wednesday on the company’s earnings call. “I do believe they’re right for our platform. And while Joe has a massive audience — he is actually the No. 1 podcast in more than 90 markets — he also has to abide by those policies.”

Rogan — who signed a $100 million deal giving Spotify exclusive rights to his show in 2020 — has been at the center of growing backlash for repeatedly sharing and providing a platform for misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines.

Spotify announced Sunday that it would add content advisories to any podcast episodes discussing Covid-19 — a move that came after several musicians, led by Neil Young, said they were pulling their music from the platform for providing an unchecked platform for Covid-19 misinformation.

In response to Spotify's announcement, Rogan defended himself Sunday in a 10-minute video on Instagram but vowed to "try harder" to offer more balance on his show, which is estimated to reach 11 million listeners per episode.

“I’m not trying to promote misinformation. I’m not trying to be controversial,” he said. “I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations.”

Young demanded last week that his music be removed from the service over the growing controversy, saying Spotify “can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” in an open letter Jan. 24, which was later deleted from his official website, according to Rolling Stone. On Jan. 26, Spotify said it had agreed to remove Young’s music.

Other artists, including Canadian musician Joni Mitchell, India.Arie, Nils Lofgren and Young's former bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, have sought to follow suit.

Spotify reported an increase of 8 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2021, but the company's stock immediately dropped by as much as 22 percent after hours Wednesday, Variety reported.

Ek said on the earnings call that the past several weeks have provided a "number of learning opportunities for the company," adding that "there's still work to be done."

In an appearance Wednesday on CNBC, Ek said the company is trying to achieve a "big balancing act," which involves "balancing creative expression with of course ... the safety of our users."

That's why the company decided to recently publish its policies for the first time, Ek said, saying it should have been done earlier.

“That’s on me," he said. "But we have them out there now so that everyone can look at these policies and understand what goes on our platform. Our goal obviously is to have as much content as we can. We're going to try and do everything we can to build the best possible experience for creators where they can interact and engage with their fans and monetize those relationships."