Joe Rogan during his latest podcast interview with gun rights advocate Colion Noir, April 16th, 2021 (photo: Digital Music News)
After nixing more than 40 shows from The Joe Rogan Experience since on-boarding the podcast this year, Spotify has now earmarked additional shows for removal.
Earlier this month, we first reported that Spotify was continuing to delete Joe Rogan episodes after exclusively onboarding the podcast late last year. As of this month, Spotify has now deleted 42 episodes in what appeared to be a quiet removal process. Despite the missing episodes, Spotify has declined to comment on the missing shows, much less offer any rationale for the specific removals.
Now, Digital Music News has learned that this process may not end at 42. According to the same sources that tipped us off to the earlier deletions, Spotify has earmarked roughly 15-20 additional shows for removal, but has pressed pause on the plan given a spate of negative publicity and “bad optics”.
Since the story on the removals broke this month, a substantial list of media outlets have covered the issue and the topic has trended on social media. Media outlets covering the deletions now include the New York Post, Business Insider, The Wrap, and Newsweek, among many others, an unexpected and unwelcomed publicity surge that is putting the show-trimming on pause. Despite being on hold, DMN has also learned that the deletions are “still on the table” but now lack any concrete removal dates.
It’s also unclear if the removals have sparked any internal debates within Spotify over censorship, including with Rogan himself. Earlier, Joe Rogan faced heavy pressure from activist Spotify employees to remove specific shows, give editing oversight authority to Spotify staffers, and preface shows with trigger warnings or fact-checking clarifications. Those efforts initially appeared unsuccessful after Spotify’s management pushed back, though the catalog deletions still went ahead.
Rogan has since confirmed the protracted showdown while criticizing the ’23-year old woke kids’ at the company. “I’m talking off the top of my head. And a lot of times I’m saying s—t that I don’t even mean,” Rogan stated back in October. “I’m saying it because this is an f—king podcast. And if you have a problem with people saying terrible s—t and you work for Spotify, maybe you should listen to some of the lyrics. Okay, because some of the lyrics and some of the f—king music that you guys play over and over and over again make my s—t pale in comparison.”
“But I get it, you’re a 23-year-old woke kid and you’re working for this company and you think you’re gonna put your foot down, I get it.”
So what’s next on the chopping block, assuming the next batch of episodes is indeed deleted?
That part was not shared, though a top-level description of the list suggests that mostly ‘catalog shows’ from years ago have been selected for removal. It’s unclear if more recent controversial shows — in particular interviews with transgender critic Abigail Shrier or conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — have also been earmarked, though that appears unlikely given the higher visibility of those episodes.
Early this morning, we scoured the entire Joe Rogan catalog on Spotify, and found that no additional shows had been removed (meaning, the deleted episode count remains at 42).
Incidentally, Joe Rogan has briefly discussed the removals on a relatively recent podcast, but didn’t seem to care.
“There were a few episodes [Spotify] didn’t want on their platform, and I was like ‘okay, I don’t care’,” Rogan told guest Fahim Anwar. “But other than that, in terms of what I do in the future, the big test was having Alex Jones on.”
Ironically, Rogan made that statement immediately after criticizing Netflix for scrubbing an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act following pressure from the Saudi Arabian government. “When I saw that Hasan’s show was pulled because of the criticism of Saudi Arabia, I was like, ‘what? Netflix?’ It made me think like, man, I don’t know if that’s the place. I don’t know if that’s the place anymore, because I feel like there’s too much corporate involvement, there’s too much influence on content.”
The Wall Street Journal estimated that Spotify spent more than $100 million to secure Joe Rogan’s exclusive deal.