Joe Rogan and Spotify: Superstar or Sellout?
Joe Rogan is a podcasting superstar – this is a fact that has been further solidified with his multiyear Spotify deal worth a staggering $100 million. On the 19th of May, the commentator, comedian and celebrity tweeted “Announcement: the podcast is moving to Spotify! Starting on September 1 the podcast will be available on Spotify as well as all platforms, and then at the end of the year it will move exclusively to Spotify”.
The move came as a bit of shock to fans and critics alike, and debate between the two developed into a discussion about the nature of modern entertainment, the notion of selling out and censorship of YouTube, all contained within the 280-character confinement of Twitter.
We can see the debate by simply viewing the replies to the tweet; the stark contrast in discussion and opinion can be seen literally tweet by tweet:
Although this is undoubtedly a huge development in the podcasting world, whether is a good or bad development is, as always with Joe Rogan, a controversy.
We can see from Spotify themselves the aspiration behind the deal: it means that “the platform’s more than 286 million active users will have access to one of culture’s leading voices. By partnering with Spotify, Rogan and his team will enjoy the support of the world’s leading audio platform.” (https://newsroom.spotify.com/2020-05-19/the-joe-rogan-experience-launches-exclusive-partnership-with-spotify/)_
Regardless of your opinion or knowledge of Joe Rogan and his content, it is no debate that one of the world’s largest podcasts moving exclusively to Spotify is significant in many ways. It means that the podcast will be removed from YouTube, a platform that requires no account to view, to Spotify, a platform that requires an account to view.
The podcast will remain free but Spotify will make a tidy profit on the data capture; The Verge makes an interesting point in writing “ Rogan’s show will still be free to listen to on Spotify; people won’t need to pay for Spotify Premium to hear or watch it, although they will pay with their data, which helps Spotify sell more lucrative ads.
Spotify will jointly sell the ads for Rogan’s show, so free users will hear those ads, plus any additional ads that run in the course of using Spotify’s platform. Spotify doesn’t need everyone to subscribe because it makes money off them either way.” (https://www.theverge.com/21265005/spotify-joe-rogan-experience-podcast-deal-apple-gimlet-media-ringer)
The declaration of “The Podcasting World is Now Spotify Versus Everybody Else” by The Verve is a sentiment felt by Joe Rogan’s critics and the people concerned with the homogenisation of the audio world by Spotify alike.
Looking back to the replies of the original tweet, we can see that they are largely negative; for many people, this seems to be the last straw in term of the monopolisation of podcasting by Spotify, but on the other hand, many people see this as the ‘fault’ of YouTube.
Both developments of this seem to be negative – the semiotics imply that it is both a shame that Rogan has left YouTube and a shame that Spotify is solidifying their position as podcast conglomerates.
This duality of criticism is seen in nearly every reply that is not congratulatory. The most liked reply had 4.9 thousand likes, and this debate is again summarised almost poetically by the juxtaposition within its criticism:
However, it's not all negative; this could be seen as great news for those aspiring to be the next Joe Rogan or those on day one of podcasting with big dreams.
In addition with this, Rogan himself has said that the show will remain largely the same, it will just be hosted on a different service: “It will remain free, and it will be the exact same show” He assures us that "It's just a licensing deal, so Spotify won't have any creative control over the show”, maintaining "They want me to just continue doing it the way I'm doing it right now”.
So, we can rest easy with the confirmation that the show will continue to celebrate knowledge and understanding – a central theme of the podcast since day one. The BBC tells us that this deal is so significant because “It is generally difficult to make large amounts of money in the crowded world of podcasts. As most podcasts are free to download, many presenters and producers attempt to make money from endorsements and advertising. A platform-exclusive deal such as this is very rare.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52736364)
As we see the podcast world shift into a mainstream source of entertainment, we could see these deals crop up more often. It is only logical to assume that as podcasting becomes more popular and more mainstream, the money surrounding it will increase.
We are already seeing the idea of a podcasting superstar solidified before this deal, as Joe Rogan’s celebrity has arguably been intensified by the huge success of his podcast.
What defines success is sometimes blurry – whether it's numbers, deals, or a dedicated fan base, Joe Rogan has all three and this new deal doesn’t seem to define success for Joe Rogan. If Joe had ended his podcast tomorrow it would go down as one of the greatest of all time – if anything, it is a success for those aspiring to be the next Joe Rogan!
The normalisation of podcasts as multimillion-dollar platforms will hopefully aspire and create more podcasters. Let’s hope out of this saturation we will learn more from podcasts than ever!