Spotify still grew despite Joe Rogan boycotts and Russia closure

It saw free and paying subscriber figures grow, despite calls for people to leave the service.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 09: Joe Rogan looks on during the UFC 273 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Spotify has managed to grow despite a high-profile rebellion over its backing of controversial podcaster Joe Rogan, and broader market fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The streaming giant today released updated financial results for the first quarter of 2022, revealing that it grew to 422 million monthly users. 182 million of which pay for Premium, with its stable of exclusive podcasts a big draw and one that Spotify is continually investing in. The company added that three million of that total user figure may have been added as a consequence of a log-in issue, but even taking that into account, growth was still above expectations.

At the start of 2022, Spotify doubled down in support of Rogan who regularly interviews fringe and far right figures on his show. That included Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to have invented the mRNA technology used to create COVID-19 vaccines, a claim widely refuted by the people who actually did. Malone’s episode prompted a complaint from 270 healthcare professionals asking for Spotify to do more to combat vaccine misinformation. That was followed by artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who withdrew their music from the service, and Brené Brown who paused her podcast, in protest at Spotify’s refusal to take down misinformation. The service said it would not drop Rogan, but eventually said it would add a content advisory label to episodes which repeated misinformation.

Not long after, and Spotify announced that it would fully suspend its service in Russia and close its offices in the territory, in protest at the invasion of Ukraine. While Spotify was reportedly the second-largest platform in Russia, it wasn’t a major contributor to the company’s revenue. In the documents, Spotify says that it believes it lost 1.5 million free users and an additional 600,000 which were paying for Premium as a consequence of cutting off the country. It added that those losses were more than compensated for with surging user growth in Latin America and Europe.

The company also reported a slender profit of €14 million, notwithstanding the vast sums spent to both buy Chartable and Podsights, as well as (reportedly) throw more than $300 million to F.C. Barcelona for the naming rights to its famous stadium, Camp Nou.