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Joe Rogan reigns at Spotify in spite of podcast’s controversies

Joe Rogan has once again managed to justify Spotify's decision to drop major dollars in exchange for his exclusivity on the platform.

The Joe Rogan Experience, arguably one of the most popular podcasts in the English-speaking world, was the most popular show on Spotify in 2023, according to the company.

It revealed the list of its top 25 most popular shows by user listens during the Spotify Wrapped marketing event.

Spotify cut a deal with Rogan in 2020 that is reportedly worth more than $200m over three and a half years. That means Rogan could be a free agent again in early or mid 2024, and that if Spotify wants to keep him exclusive, it'll need to offer him a massive payday to stick around.

Seeing Rogan depart the platform would likely come as a relief to his critics. Spotify took a lashing when it made the massive deal in 2020 due to Rogan's anti-vaccine views. The podcaster used his massive platform to push vaccine conspiracy theories during the pandemic and to give airtime to individuals offering dubious medical advice. The controversy led several prominent musicians to pull their music from Spotify in protest.

On the flip side, Rogan's show — despite how some critics may portray it — is not a knockoff of Tucker Carlson's old Fox News show or Steve Bannon's War Room podcast, where extreme-right propaganda is all that's on offer. The show covers a variety of topics, features guests from across the political spectrum, and Rogan — despite being sometimes gullible, pugnacious and obstinate — has also shown some willingness to split with his fans when their ideology clashes with his personal morals.

It's unclear if Spotify will attempt to keep Rogan on the platform, but if it doesn't, it likely won't be a decision driven by his controversies.

During a Q3 earnings call last month, Spotify CFO Paul Vogel said the podcasting business was improving and that it may "reach break-even and then become something that's actually additive to gross profit," according to Variety.

It's unclear if Spotify would risk turning back on those prospective profits by cutting Rogan loose.