As pressure has intensified on Spotify and Joe Rogan, its star podcaster, listeners reported that the company had quietly removed dozens of episodes of his show, while Rogan apologized early Saturday for his use of a racial slur in past episodes.
In an Instagram video, Rogan — whose talk show, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is Spotify’s most popular podcast, and has been available there exclusively for more than a year — addressed what he called “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” A compilation video showed Rogan using the slur numerous times in past episodes of his show; it had been shared by the singer India.Arie, who removed her catalog from Spotify in protest of what she called Rogan’s “language around race.”
Rogan said the compilation was drawn from “12 years of conversations” on his show, and that it looked “horrible, even to me.” The clips, he said, had been taken out of context, which he said included discussions about how it had been used by comedians like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, who were Black, and Lenny Bruce, who was white. Rogan said he has not spoken the slur “in years.”
When posting the clip compilation, Arie said that Rogan “shouldn’t even be uttering the word. Don’t say it, under any context.” This week, Arie joined a small but influential boycott of Spotify led by the musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who had cited complaints by health professionals that guests on Rogan’s show had spread misinformation about the coronavirus.
This week, listeners noticed that as many as 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” had been quietly removed by Spotify. Neither Rogan nor Spotify has given an explanation, and representatives of the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday morning. Commenters on Reddit speculated that some of the missing episodes may have contained the slur, although that was unclear.
Rogan, a comedian and sports commentator, began his show in 2009 and built a huge following on YouTube before signing an exclusive licensing deal with Spotify in 2020, for a reported $100 million or more. According to the website JRE Missing, which tracks the show, a total of 113 episodes — out of more than 1,700 since the podcast began — have been removed from Spotify since Rogan’s show became an exclusive offering there.
Since Young called for his music to be removed from Spotify on Jan. 24, the company has come under growing pressure from musicians and other podcasters over Rogan’s show; the dispute has also resurfaced musicians’ longstanding complaints over low royalty payments.
Spotify responded by publishing its content policies and said that Rogan must abide by them. But Daniel Ek, the company’s chief executives, has resisted calls to drop Rogan, and also pushed back against arguments that Spotify acts as Rogan’s publisher, saying that Spotify is rather a “platform” that lacks any advance editorial control over Rogan’s show.