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Spotify needed Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan needed Spotify. So they're sticking together.

Peter Kafka   

Spotify needed Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan needed Spotify. So they're sticking together.
  • Spotify has renewed its deal with Joe Rogan, the biggest star in podcasting.
  • The deal could be worth a reported $250 million.

Spotify spent a ton of money getting into podcasting, and then it started cutting back. But it's still going to be a major force in podcasting for years to come — because it's hanging on to Joe Rogan.

Spotify says Rogan, the most popular person in podcasting, will be sticking around the platform via a "multiyear" contract. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal could be worth up to $250 million; Bloomberg first reported the news.

There are significant tweaks to this deal compared to the one Spotify and Rogan struck in 2020: For listeners, the biggest one is that Rogan will no longer be exclusive to Spotify; a Spotify rep tells me the show will be available on "all of the major" podcast platforms, including Apple, YouTube, and Amazon.

And behind the scenes, Rogan's deal will also change: Instead of getting paid based on the show's popularity, he'll share in the show's revenue, the Journal reports.

All of this makes a lot of sense, given the way that podcasting — and Spotify's commitment to podcasting — has changed.

At one point — in large part due to Spotify's $1 billion-plus investment in podcasting — platforms like Spotify were paying huge premiums for big-name personalities to host podcasts. And they assumed that audiences and dollars would follow behind.

But while podcast consumption has continued to grow — Edison Research says 42 million people in the US listened to podcasts regularly in 2023, double the number from 2016 — the industry is running into revenue problems. That's because podcasting still doesn't have the reach and accountability that many big advertisers look for. And many smaller ones — like venture-backed companies selling mattresses, meal kits, and the like via "direct response" ads — have disappeared.

So Spotify has been paring back its commitment to individual podcasters — parting ways with the likes of former royals Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, for instance — while hanging on to a few high-performing stars, like Rogan and Alex Cooper, the host of "Call Her Daddy." Cooper, by the way, just announced that her show would also no longer be exclusive to Spotify.

Rogan does create problems for Spotify, since he's a just-asking-questions guy who routinely brings conspiracists like Alex Jones onto his show, and tends to free-associate about stuff he doesn't have a full grasp on. In 2022, musician Neil Young pulled his music off of Spotify in protest of Rogan's anti-vax stance.

But while Spotify sometimes strained to distance itself from things Rogan says and does, it has continued to back him over the course of his contact. Also of note: Almost no other musician followed Young's boycott.

That backing almost certainly helped keep Rogan with Spotify for another deal. As did the fact that any other platform that could have signed Rogan may not have wanted to stick their hand in the controversy blender he operates.

Meanwhile, Spotify needs Rogan if it's going to continue to be a meaningful player in podcasting, and it already knows the pros and cons of working with him.

All of which could explain why Rogan didn't embark on an option some industry folks had previously predicted — simply leaving Spotify and running his own company, like he had done before he linked up with the platform. Those predictions made more sense before the podcast ad business retracted.

So instead, this deal means Rogan gets a reliable income source, and Spotify gets the best-known name in the industry. As an industry executive put it to me today: "There's a certain degree of co-dependence here."

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