Spotify Pledges to Offset the $100 Million They Gave Joe Rogan With Investments in “Historically Marginalized Groups”

In other words, a bunch of artists are being made to share the same amount of money paid to one white guy who has a history of using racial slurs

Joe Rogan performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on May 10, 2017 in Pasadena, California.
Joe Rogan performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on May 10, 2017 in Pasadena, California.

After a week of controversy over COVID-19 misinformation on his podcast that was initiated when Neil Young removed his music from Spotify in protest, Joe Rogan’s troubles continued over the weekend. The latest controversy, however, has nothing to do with the coronavirus; instead, Rogan was called out by singer India Arie for his repeated use of the n-word on his show and other problematic language related to race.

As a result, Rogan apologized, calling his past comments and use of the racial slur “regretful and shameful.” On Friday, around 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience that contained the slurs or other controversial material were removed from the platform. And as The Hollywood Reporter notes, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent a letter to the company’s employees apologizing for all the added scrutiny and condemning Rogan’s comments about Black people while also doubling down on his decision to keep him on the platform.

“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,” Ek wrote in the letter. “Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful — I want to make clear that they do not represent the values of this company. I know this situation leaves many of you feeling drained, frustrated and unheard.”

“I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” he continued. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.” Instead of suspending or firing Rogan, Ek promised to invest money in artists and creators from a more diverse background. “I am committing to an incremental investment of $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups,” he wrote.

Of course, $100 million is the same amount of money Spotify reportedly paid to license The Joe Rogan Experience, so apparently the company thinks they can just offset his racism (and, naturally, any negative PR that results from it) by throwing the same amount of money at BIPOC musicians and podcasters. Again, just to clarify here, countless creators from historically marginalized groups are being made to share the same amount of money that was given to one white man who has a history of saying racist things on his show. Does Spotify really not see how bad this looks, or do they simply not care?

The truth is, no matter how many times Ek delivers the same platitudes about Rogan’s vile comments not representing the values of his company, Spotify’s inaction represents an absence of values — and that’s just as bad. What they’ve done thus far is demonstrate that they’re fine with Rogan using racial slurs (only responding when others called it out), and they’re fine with paying tens of millions to a podcast host who brings on guests like alt-right troll Charles Johnson who once made the hideous assertion that Black people have a “gene that makes them predisposed to violence” (though that specific episode has been deleted). You can’t “both sides” racism. If you’re not actively anti-racist, you’re part of the problem; Spotify needs to push back against hate speech, and by allowing Rogan to continue cashing their checks, the implication is they’re fine with giving a platform to racists. That’s despicable, and tossing $100 million over to BIPOC creatives to generate some good publicity isn’t going to change that.

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