Spotify: 'Too early to know' if Joe Rogan uproar will spark cancellation wave

Spotify's stock is tanking -- "but I feel good about where we are," CEO Daniel Ek says.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
Joe Rogan, in a black button-up shirt, looks up with a smile while standing against a black background.

Joe Rogan's podcast, a Spotify exclusive, was its most popular one on the service last year. 

Getty Images

Spotify predicted 2022 will start out with sleepier growth than Wall Street was hoping, but CEO Daniel Ek said that -- so far -- it has nothing to do with a swell of objections to Joe Rogan's popular podcast.

It's "too early to know what the impact may be," Ek said late Wednesday, speaking during a call with Wall Street analysts to discuss the company's latest financial results. He added that the effects from past controversies were "measured in months, not days."

"But I feel good about where we are," he said. 

Still, Spotify's stock tumbled Thursday, with shares down 15% at $162.52 in early trading as investors fretted over Spotify's sluggish predictions for user growth in the first three months of this year.

Spotify is the world's biggest streaming music service in the world, eclipsing 400 million listeners mark at the end of last year. The benchmark underscores its dominance of streaming music worldwide, but Spotify crossed the milestone three weeks before hashtags like #CancelSpotify started trending, sparked by artists' protests over Rogan. Rogan's is the most popular podcast on Spotify and a keystone to the company's wider strategy of becoming the world's destination for all audio, beyond just music. 

Last week, singer-songwriter Neil Young reignited a debate about the service's role in moderating the messages promoted on its service, as he pulled his music from Spotify over objections to COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Young's boycott came after hundreds of medical professions pointed to Rogan as they called on Spotify to tackle COVID misinformation more aggressively. Folk icon Joni Mitchell joined Young's boycott Saturday.

Since then, Ek has said Spotify won't act as a censor, but it will be more transparent. It'll now publish its policies on dangerous content and other rules, as well as adding a content advisory with links to an informational hub to any podcast episode that discusses COVID-19. Wednesday, Ek characterized the moves as "pretty dramatic steps."

The content-advisory notice is "being rolled out right now, as we're speaking," Ek said Wednesday. "No other audio platform has done this." 

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