As pressure has intensified on Spotify and its star podcaster Joe Rogan, listeners reported that the company had quietly removed dozens of episodes of his show, while Rogan apologized early Saturday for his use of a racial slur in past episodes.
In an Instagram video, Rogan — whose talk show, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is Spotify’s most popular podcast, and has been available there exclusively for more than a year — addressed what he called “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” A compilation video showed Rogan using the slur numerous times in past episodes of his show; it had been shared by the singer India.Arie, who has removed her catalog from Spotify in protest of what she called Rogan’s “language around race.”
Rogan said the compilation was drawn from “12 years of conversations” on his show, and that it looked “horrible, even to me.” The clips, he said, had been taken out of context, which he said included discussions about how it had been used by comedians like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, who were Black, and Lenny Bruce, who was white.
When posting the clip compilation, Arie said that Rogan “shouldn’t even be uttering the word. Don’t say it, under any context.” In his video, Rogan said that he had come to agree with that view. “It’s not my word to use,” he said. “I’m well aware of that now.” He added that he had not spoken the slur “in years.”
This week, Arie joined a small but influential boycott of Spotify led by the musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who cited complaints by health professionals that guests on Rogan’s show had spread misinformation about the coronavirus.
In his latest video, Rogan also discussed a clip from another podcast episode, which he said he had deleted, in which he described seeing “Planet of the Apes” at a theater in a Black neighborhood in Philadelphia. “I was trying to make the story entertaining and I said it was like we got out and we were in Africa. It’s like we were in ‘Planet of the Apes,’” he said, adding that it was an “idiotic” thing to say that “looks terrible even in context.”
Listeners noticed that as many as 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” had been quietly removed in recent days by Spotify. Neither Rogan nor Spotify has given an explanation, and representatives of the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Commenters on Reddit speculated that some of the missing episodes may have contained the slur, although that was unclear.
Understand the Joe Rogan-Spotify Controversy
A brash personality. The podcast host Joe Rogan has built a huge following by defying the traditional gate-keeping strictures of mainstream fame. He recently drew criticism for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 on his show on the audio streaming service Spotify.
A company put to the test. After facing calls to take action against Mr. Rogan, Spotify said it wasn’t responsible for content posted on its platform. But critics argued that because the company paid for exclusive rights to Mr. Rogan’s show, it should take responsibility.
Stars with leverage. A group of artists and podcasters, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, initiated a boycott of Spotify in response to its handling of the controversy. This was a significant move, as the platform needs popular content in its library to remain financially competitive.
New accusations. The singer India.Arie also removed her catalog from Spotify, citing what she called Mr. Rogan’s “language around race.” After she shared a video that documented his use of a racial slur, the podcast host apologized for having used the word in the past.
Too big to remove? Mr. Rogan is one of the most consumed media products on the planet, making it difficult for Spotify to remove him without alienating millions of subscribers. But listeners recently reported that dozens of episodes of Mr. Rogan’s show had been quietly taken off the platform.
Rogan, a comedian and sports commentator, began his show in 2009 and built a huge following on YouTube before signing an exclusive licensing deal with Spotify in 2020, for a reported $100 million or more.According to the website JRE Missing, which tracks the show, the latest round of removals means that a total of 113 episodes — out of more than 1,700 since the podcast began — have been deleted from Spotify since Rogan’s show became an exclusive offering there.
Since Young called for his music to be removed from Spotify on Jan. 24, the company has come under growing pressure from musicians and other podcasters over Rogan’s show; the dispute has also resurfaced musicians’ longstanding complaints over low royalty payments.
Spotify responded by publishing its content policies and said that Rogan must abide by them. But Daniel Ek, the company’s chief executive, has resisted calls to drop Rogan, and also pushed back against arguments that Spotify acts as Rogan’s publisher, saying that Spotify is rather a “platform” that lacks any advance editorial control over Rogan’s show.