Joe Rogan, it seems, has options.
The controversial podcaster was offered $100 million on Monday to quit Spotify and join a right-wing platform.
Chris Pavlovski, the CEO of the Canadian video sharing platform Rumble, tried to entice Rogan to jump ship in a letter posted to the company’s Twitter account Monday.
“How about you bring all your shows to Rumble, both new and old, with no censorship, for $100 million bucks over four years?” he wrote. “This is our chance to save the world. And yes, this is totally legit … We stand with you, your guests and your legion of fans in desire for real conversation.”
Rumble was launched in 2013 and is billed as an alternative to YouTube and “big tech.” It counts among its personalities Dan Bongino, Dinesh D’Souza and Steve Bannon. Last month, Rumble made headlines by striking a deal with Truth Social, the social media app being launched by former President Donald Trump.
Rogan regularly describes himself as a liberal, yet makes headlines for some of his views that many would describe as right-wing — such as on guns, censorship, trans athletes in sports, and the role of government during the pandemic. His Spotify deal, which he signed in 2020, is reportedly worth more than $100 million.
The Rogan offer follows Spotify pulling roughly 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast from its platform amid the podcaster being fired due to interviewing anti-vax guests and a compilation video of Rogan using the n-word in past years.
Yet Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also declared over the weekend that the streamer is sticking by the embattled podcaster. “I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote in an email to Spotify staff. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope … While some might want us to pursue a different path, I believe that more speech on more issues can be highly effective in improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether.”
Also Monday, Spotify’s stock — which has been sliding for months — descended to almost pre-Rogan levels.
Some history: Spotify’s stock closed at $161 on May 18, 2020, the day before Spotify’s deal to distribute The Joe Rogan Experience was announced, and then closed at $175 the next day. The stock continued to set records for months, peaking in Feb. 19, 2021, at $364 per share. As of Monday, however, Spotify’s post-Rogan gains have nearly evaporated, with the streamer trading around $170 per share.
The company’s stock slide far pre-dates its Rogan controversy, and has almost certainly been hastened in recent weeks by tech stocks’ overall slump this year and the company’s own earnings report last week, which showed slowing subscriber growth.
Still, one of the business-side defenses of signing Rogan has been how much the podcaster clearly helped the company’s stock price and it’s interesting to see the company ending up just about where it left off before signing him (chart below):
It’s also worth pointing out that Rogan was not solely responsible for Spotify’s rise as other lockdown-life stocks like Netflix and Amazon likewise climbed steeply during the pandemic as listening to music and podcasts jumped.
And there is, of course, no alternate universe control-group version of Spotify’s stock chart available that shows where the streamer would be right now had it never signed the controversial podcaster in the first place — perhaps it would be even lower. And obviously, the market is fluid and Spotify’s stock price can and will continue to change.
It’s too soon to tell if boycotts led by artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell will have any effect on the company’s bottom line.
Ek previously addressed the issue in an earnings call last week. “So the easy answer is we don’t reflect any churn from the recent Joe Rogan thing in general,” Ek said. “What I would say is it’s too early to know what the impact may be. And usually when we’ve had controversies in the past, those are measured in months and not days.”
The CEO also committed 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” to boost “all types of creators,” including those from underrepresented backgrounds.
Spotify’s Rogan controversy has surged in recent weeks following the podcaster being slammed for including anti-vax misinformation and musician India Arie circulating a viral compilation of Rogan using the n-word. The podcaster apologized over the weekend, calling his comments “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.”