Over the past couple of years, Spotify has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the podcasting format by shelling out money hand over fist. The music streaming service has made a number of high-profile acquisitions, including production company Gimlet and editing tool Anchor, but today’s news may well be the biggest of all.
The company has signed The Joe Rogan Experience to an exclusive multi-year licensing deal. The show will hit Spotify September 1, and become exclusive to the platform later in the year. Rogan is arguably the biggest and most influential voice in the medium.
The podcast has dominated Apple’s podcasting charts and YouTube views. Rogan currently has 8.41 million subscribers on YouTube, where his videos regularly rack up more than a million views. A recent interview with Elon Musk has already generated more than 13 million views. As of this writing, the show is currently No. 2 on Apple's charts and comprises three of the service's top 10 episodes. "The talk series has long been the most-searched-for podcast on Spotify," according to the service.
In an audio message attached to the release, Rogan noted that, “It will be the exact same show. I will not be an employee of Spotify.” It’s a key point, not just in order to ease the minds of a rabid fan base, but because the left has often been critical of Rogan’s show and message. The program has often featured right-wing voices, including members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, Proud Boy founder Gavin McInnes and de-platformed conspiracy trafficker Alex Jones.
Other high-profile guests include Elon Musk, who recently made another appearance on the program, and Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ campaign came under criticism from the DNC establishment after promoting Rogan’s offhanded nomination for president. At the time, the Human Rights Campaign said Sanders "must reconsider" the endorsement, stating that Rogan has “attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized groups at every opportunity."
While the show has long been hosted on a variety of audio and video platforms, Spotify could well come under fire from similar groups. Rogan has described himself as not belonging to any political party and holding largely libertarian views.
In addition to purchasing existing shows and podcast production companies, Spotify has also been creating its own in-house programs, in a bid to wrest domination of the medium away from long-time leader Apple. This acquisition represents a fairly massive shot across the bow, as diehard fans will soon have no other (legal) option for listening to the show. Details of the deal -- including the duration -- have not yet been disclosed.
Update: In response to a question about the Rogan show's history of controversial guests and subject matter, a spokesperson for the company simply responded, "All shows on Spotify are subject to our content policies."