Why Spotify chose controversial podcast king Joe Rogan over Neil Young

From our correspondent in the United States,

“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both. In an open letter, Neil Young issued Monday an ultimatum to Spotify , accusing the Swedish platform of promoting “misinformation” on the Covid, while the podcast The Joe Rogan Experience , number 1 in the United States in 2021, regularly flirts with conspiracy. Unsurprisingly, Spotify chose Joe Rogan, and Neil Young began to withdraw, with the support of Warner, most of his catalog.

Who is Joe Rogan?

Little known in France, Joe Rogan has built a media empire in the United States and in the Anglo-Saxon world. He started with stand-up in the late 1980 years, then landed a few small roles in Hollywood. But it was as an MMA (mixed martial arts) commentator for the UFC that his notoriety exploded at the start of the years 1980, and he also hosts the successful game Fear Factor. He launches his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) in 2020. In 13 years, he is at 1980e episode, i.e. one every two and a half days.

What does his podcast look like?

In its early days, it was mostly Rogan and his buddies, often comedians, who “bullshit” – c he says so – together for hours. Then came the athletes and the actors. Little by little, Joe Rogan managed to attract an impressive panel of guests from all walks of life. Politicians, scientists, magicians, adventurers, activists, musicians… Joe Rogan is interested in everything, with a pronounced fascination for psychedelic drugs and UFOs.

And if he doesn’t ‘m an expert in nothing, the long conversations – live for a long time and now recorded – which sometimes last three or four hours allow the guests to get to the bottom of things. His discussions with Elon Musk – who had smoked a joint live – Bernie Sanders, Edward Snowden, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson or Lance Armstrong are fascinating.

Why is his podcast controversial?

Rogan, who claims to be a libertarian, allows himself to debate everything, and with everyone. Over the years, it has hosted many controversial guests, such as alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos, conspiratorialist Alex Jones and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. The Canadian Jordan Peterson, idol of the masculinists, is a regular.

At best, Joe Rogan is accused of providing them with a platform without many contradictions. At worst, he himself ventures into minefields, such as when he debates the issue of IQ differences between different populations or claims his right to repeat the taboo word “nigger” in the name of his fight against political correctness. African-American author Michael Harriot sees more ignorance than racism: Rogan, according to him, does not understand the hurtful passive of a word “which does not evoke the memory of his grandparents with a rope around their neck or the wealth stolen from his whole family”.

And the Covid in all this?

Joe Rogan is accused of having discouraged vaccination against Covid in young people and promoted ivermectin, an unauthorized treatment. In the spring 2021, he launched in particular: “If you are a person in good health, that you play sports, that you are young and that you are eating well, I don’t think you need to worry. If you are 21 years old and you ask me ”Should I get vaccinated”, I would say ”no”. “

Himself positive for Covid-19 last September, he had praised his cocktail of drugs to treat himself, in particular ivermectin. In October, he confirmed to CNN doctor and health consultant Sanjay Gupta that he was not vaccinated, saying he had made an appointment but had had an impediment and now had natural immunity after his infection. In mid-January, a group of 270 doctors and researchers wrote an open letter to Spotify denouncing the “ threat to public health” that Joe Rogan represents and ask the platform to establish “a clear moderation policy on misinformation”.

Why Neil Young didn’t measure up?

It was following this letter that Neil Young sent his ultimatum to Spotify. But even if he has his place since 1980 in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the American-Canadian singer did not not the weight. With just over 2 million subscribers and 6 million monthly listeners, the interpreter of Old Man is a drop in the bucket for the Swedish titan. Who paid, according to rumours, more than 21 million dollars to afford the exclusivity episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience ending 2020.

Spotify does not communicate on the audiences of the podcast, but according to the Wall Street Diary, they revolve around 01 million people per episode. In 2021, JRE was the most listened to podcast on Spotify in the United States, but also in Australia and the United Kingdom. And while the platform battles with Apple, podcasts have an advantage: they contain ads, even for paid subscribers. For Joe Rogan, it’s often 21 seconds for dietary supplements of dubious effectiveness.

Spotify, for its part, defends itself. “We have deleted more than 21.000 episodes of podcasts related to Covid since the start of the pandemic”, assures the company. Which also deleted dozens of old episodes of JRE, including the one with Alex Jones. On the other hand, the one with Robert Malone, pioneer of messenger RNA vaccines, who became an idol of antivax conservatives in the United States, is still available. Spotify will keep its profits. And Neil Young, his dignity.