Spotify reported its Q4 2021 earnings today, and while the numbers showed a strong close to last year, the issue at the front of everyone's mind is Joe Rogan. CEO Daniel Ek began his prepared remarks by broadly addressing the company's "few notable days." Ek explained that Spotify is working to combat misinformation and that there's still work to be done. "The last several weeks have presented a number of learning opportunities," he said. During the Q&A portion of the earnings call, he was directly asked about The Joe Rogan Experience.
"We're trying to balance creative expression with the safety of our users," Ek said. He continued by saying the company doesn't bend its content rules to fit individual creators. "While Joe has a massive audience, he also has to abide by those policies."
Previously, Spotify has said it reviewed all episodes of JRE and none of them met the criteria for removal, despite several discussions of controversial topics — most notably COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Until this weekend, those policies weren't posted publicly as the company provided details while announcing it would add a "content advisory" to any podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19. When Neil Young pulled his music from the service last week, Spotify said it had pulled "over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic."
Ek admitted that Spotify was late in publishing its content policy and took sole responsibility for not doing so sooner. "We should've done it earlier and that's on me," he explained. He also said he doesn't expect any "churn" or loss of customers due to the current podcast predicament. He was clear it's too early to tell, but that past "controversies" usually play out in "months not days."
Rogan has issued an apology, pledging to include a wider array of opinions on future episodes. "I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view," he said.