Of Course All It Took Was a Financial Hit for Joe Rogan and Spotify to Address His COVID-19 Misinformation

The controversial podcast host apologized and promised to book "more experts with differing opinions" on his show

Joe Rogan introduces fighters during the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The podcaster responded to the controversy surrounding his COVID-19 misinformation after Neil Young started a Spotify boycott.
Joe Rogan introduces fighters during the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 10, 2021 in Las Vegas.
Getty Images

After Neil Young pulled his music off of Spotify over his concerns about the streaming service giving a platform to Joe Rogan’s COVID-19 misinformation, the big question was whether any other high-profile artists would follow his lead. Over the weekend, it became clear that Young had kicked off a movement of sorts, with Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren joining him and removing their catalogs from Spotify. Now, facing public pressure, Joe Rogan and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek have responded.

While Spotify won’t remove their cash cow Rogan (in whom they’ve reportedly already invested $100 million) or his controversial COVID-19 podcast episodes, the streamer announced that it will be attaching a “content advisory” notice on any podcast episode that discusses the coronavirus. The disclaimer will reportedly direct listeners to a “COVID-19 hub” that includes links to information from the CDC and other health resources.

“We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users,” Ek wrote in a public letter. “In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Rogan posted a video to his social media in which he said he’s “very sorry” that musicians like Young and Mitchell felt like they needed to leave Spotify because of him.  “I most certainly don’t want that,” he said. Rogan also admitted that much of what he discusses on his podcast is “not that prepared or fleshed out,” and he thanked Spotify for “being so supportive during this time and I’m very sorry that this is happening to them.”

“If there’s anything that I’ve done that I could do better, it’s having more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones,” Rogan continued. “I would most certainly be open to doing that. And I would like to talk to some people who have differing opinions on the podcasts in the future. I do all the scheduling myself and I don’t always get it right.”

Of course, the only reason any of this is happening is because Spotify reportedly lost over $2 billion of its market value last week with Wall Street spooked over the possibility that other high-profile artists would follow Young off the platform. The streaming service was perfectly content to keep allowing Rogan to spew harmful misinformation until it threatened their bottom line, and once that happened, it was time to take action. Rogan’s not fired, obviously, because he continues to bring in millions and millions of dollars for their company. But it’s not hard to figure out why the podcast host felt compelled to apologize and promise to include people with “differing opinions” about COVID-19 — i.e., people who believe in science and can refute his dangerous theories — on his show. He, like Spotify, presumably enjoys making millions of dollars and would like to continue doing so.

Ultimately, money talks. Just like no one’s truly “canceled” as long as they continue to make other people money, the easiest way to ensure you face actual consequences is to become a threat to someone else’s profits. Boycotts work, and companies are happy to turn a blind eye to just about anything — even, say, multiple sex assault accusations — until sponsors start dropping out or the publicity becomes so bad that continuing to do so becomes untenable. If someone like Dr. Anthony Fauci turns up on a future episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, we’ve absolutely got Neil Young to thank for it.

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