Citing ‘Few Options,’ Podcaster Returns to Spotify Amid Joe Rogan Uproar


    The social psychologist Brené Brown said Tuesday that despite misgivings she would resume her two Spotify podcasts, which she had put on hiatus while considering the streaming platform’s policies and responsibilities amid accusations that its most popular podcaster, Joe Rogan, was spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

    After several prominent recording artists, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, announced last month that they were removing their music from Spotify because they were not comfortable sharing a platform with Rogan’s show, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Brown had announced that she was indefinitely pausing her podcasts, “Unlocking Us” and “Dare to Lead,” to learn more about Spotify’s misinformation policy.

    “As you may or may not know, I’m under a multiyear, exclusive contract with Spotify,” Brown explained in a message posted to her website Tuesday about her decision to resume her podcast. “Unlike some creators, I don’t have the option of pulling my work from the platform.”

    Brown continued to express dismay over having to share a platform with Rogan, whom she criticized for past comments, saying that he had made “dehumanizing” comments about transgender people and referring to a 2011 segment in which Rogan laughed as a visiting comedian boasted about “demanding sexual favors from young female comedians wanting to perform onstage” at a club.

    “If advertisers and listeners support ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ and Spotify needs him as the cornerstone of its podcasting ambitions — that’s OK,” Brown wrote. “But sharing the table with Rogan puts me in a tremendous values conflict with very few options.”

    Brown is a professor at the University of Houston whose 2010 TEDx talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the most popular in TED history; her podcasts are produced by Parcast, a studio known for true-crime and mystery shows that Spotify acquired in 2019.

    After Young and Mitchell removed their music, Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, published the service’s platform rules and said Spotify would add “content advisory” flags on podcast episodes about the pandemic. Over the weekend, Ek confirmed that Rogan had removed a number of episodes after meetings with Spotify executives and after “his own reflections.”

    Spotify removed the episodes after the musician India.Arie shared a compilation video showing Rogan using a racial slur in past episodes. That prompted an apology from Rogan, who two years ago signed an exclusive multiyear deal with Spotify reported to be worth $100 million.

    Brown insisted she was not attempting to censor or deplatform Rogan, but rather was concerned with herself and her own audience, and trying to understand how Spotify sees its responsibilities, adding that she thinks podcasters with a wide reach should vet and challenge their guests.

    “It doesn’t appear to me that ‘The Joe Rogan Experience takes any responsibility for the health information that it puts out in the world,” she said, “and I do believe that leads to people getting sick and even dying.”

    The controversy has moved into the political realm in recent days, with former President Donald J. Trump issuing a statement urging Rogan to stop apologizing.

    On the latest episode of his podcast, released Tuesday, Rogan called the release of the compilation video “a political hit job” but disputed the notion that comedians should never apologize. “You should apologize if you regret something,” he said.



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