Spotify CEO Daniel Ek released a statement on Sunday announcing that the company would stand by podcast host Joe Rogan following an “n-word” controversy that Rogan apologized for late last week.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some will want more. And I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek said. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”
Ek’s statement continued:
Another criticism that I continue to hear from many of you is that it’s not just about The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify; it comes down to our direct relationship with him. In last week’s Town Hall, I outlined to you that we are not the publisher of JRE. But perception due to our exclusive license implies otherwise. So I’ve been wrestling with how this perception squares with our values.
If we believe in having an open platform as a core value of the company, then we must also believe in elevating all types of creators, including those from underrepresented communities and a diversity of backgrounds. We’ve been doing a great deal of work in this area already but I think we can do even more. So I am committing to an incremental investment of $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups. This will dramatically increase our efforts in these areas. While some might want us to pursue a different path, I believe that more speech on more issues can be highly effective in improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether.
I deeply regret that you are carrying so much of this burden. I also want to be transparent in setting the expectation that in order to achieve our goal of becoming the global audio platform, these kinds of disputes will be inevitable. For me, I come back to centering on our mission of unlocking the potential of human creativity and enabling more than a billion people to enjoy the work of what we think will be more than 50 million creators. That mission makes these clashes worth the effort.
I’ve told you several times over the last week, but I think it’s critical we listen carefully to one another and consider how we can and should do better. I’ve spent this time having lots of conversations with people inside and outside of Spotify – some have been supportive while others have been incredibly hard, but all of them have made me think.
One of the things I am thinking about is what additional steps we can take to further balance creator expression with user safety. I’ve asked our teams to expand the number of outside experts we consult with on these efforts and look forward to sharing more details.
Your passion for this company and our mission has made a difference in the lives of so many listeners and creators around the world. I hope you won’t lose sight of that. It’s that ability to focus and improve Spotify even on some of our toughest days that has helped us build the platform we have. We have a clear opportunity to learn and grow together from this challenge and I am ready to meet it head on.
I know it is difficult to have these conversations play out so publicly, and I continue to encourage you to reach out to your leaders, your HR partners or me directly if you need support or resources for yourself or your team.
Rogan apologized late last week after a video was posted by far-left activists showing him using racial slurs that he says was taken out of context. Rogan says that the context was that he was quoting other people and used the slur instead of saying the “n-word.”
“It’s not my word to use. I am well aware of that now, but for years I used it in that manner,” Rogan said. “I never used it to be racist because I’m not racist.”
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