Spotify Continues to Stream Its Joe Rogan Crisis

Thom Weidlich 02.10.22


Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal brought us inside Spotify to show how its Joe Rogan crisis grew internally, providing some nice lessons. The bad news goes on, as racist statements from the podcaster resurfaced, and the CEO addressed employees, who are turning out to be an important audience in all this.

The Feb. 4 WSJ story tells the now-familiar tale of rocker Neil Young pulling his songs from the streaming service late last month to protest what he sees as COVID-vaccine falsities on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Spotify’s most popular podcast. As we pointed out last week, many musicians and others followed, and the situation continues to be a challenge for the firm.

Most everyone agrees that it took too long for Spotify to respond. A taste of this comes from a line in the WSJ article: “For most of the week after Mr. Young’s ultimatum, it didn’t feel like a crisis at Spotify, said people inside the company.”

‘Too Slow’

Clearly not every issue blows up into a crisis. The Spotify scenario shows the importance of keeping attuned to what’s happening out there to determine whether it requires a reply. “We were too slow to respond,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told the WSJ. “That’s on me.”

Ek offered to meet with Young, which was a smart move because it showed a willingness to engage and an attempt at action. Alas, the musician declined.


There are no words I can say to adequately convey how deeply sorry I am for the way ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ controversy continues to impact each of you.

— Spotify CEO Daniel Ek to employees

Frustration grew within the company about the lack of a public response. “The Neil Young letter was one of those things where this isn’t a big deal until it becomes a big deal,” one unnamed Spotify executive told the WSJ.

Interestingly, the company was getting panicked calls from record labels to do something: Artists and managers were contacting them about how to remove their music. Finally, the weekend of Jan. 29, Spotify began calling artists, labels and podcasters. The lesson there is that it’s important to reach out to all such stakeholders, though in most crises they won’t be rock musicians but customers, vendors, regulators, local politicians and the like.

Employee Stakeholders

Spotify also shows the importance of employees as stakeholders; many among the Spotify staff are apparently upset over Rogan’s content. In this tough labor market, maintaining employees may be even more important than maintaining subscribers.

Then it came out this weekend that Rogan used the N-word on previous episodes of his podcast, and he had to apologize. That caused CEO Ek to write a message to employees in which he said, “There are no words I can say to adequately convey how deeply sorry I am for the way ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ controversy continues to impact each of you.”

On Monday, Neil Young posted on his website his own message for Spotify employees: “Get out of that place before it eats up your soul.”

Image Credit: Spotify

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Related:Neil Young Storms at Spotify ‘Like a Hurricane’