Spotify's financial apology for Joe Rogan's comments may not amount to much so far. Bloomberg sources claim the streaming service has spent less than 10 percent of its $100 million Creator Equity Fund, a pool meant to foster diversity in podcasts and music, in its first year of operation. The company reportedly planned to spend the whole fund over three years, but hasn't had a solid structure for approving spending and has been slow to hire staff. Changing priorities have also hurt the project, the insiders say.
Unionized workers at Parcast, a Spotify podcast network, have previously criticized the company over a lack of spending. In February, they complained to management that the company had greenlit just $5,000 out of the $100,000 earmarked for diversity plans.
Spotify didn't address the funding claims in a statement to Engadget. It instead pointed to projects the fund has supported so far. This includes the LGBTQ music promotion program Glow, marketing campaigns for Black artists like Kaytranada and the recent expansion of the NextGen podcast funding initiative to support development at historically Black colleges and universities. The Creator Equity Fund has also been used to support Latina/Latino creators.
The firm established the fund after the artist-led backlash to Joe Rogan allegedly enabling the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation through his Spotify-exclusive podcast. While that was the catalyst, critics also pointed to Rogan using racist language and making transphobic statements. Spotify has repeatedly defended signing Rogan in 2020, but has pulled some of the episodes containing racist words. Its deal with the podcaster is rumored to be worth at least $200 million and to last 3.5 years.
It won't be surprising if Spotify spends more of the diversity fund. However, the apparent lack of spending doesn't help Spotify's case. If the report is accurate, the company has had trouble fulfilling its promise to listeners worried the service is amplifying hate and other dangerous falsehoods.
Update 3/22 4:37PM ET: In a follow-up, a Spotify spokesperson now says the company has spent more than 10 percent of the fund. The company hasn't provided a specific figure.