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Joe Rogan caused some artists to leave Spotify. But not paying customers

<i>Carmen Mandato/Getty Images</i><br/>Joe Rogan's controversial claims about Covid-19 and vaccines caused some artists to leave Spotify
Getty Images
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Joe Rogan's controversial claims about Covid-19 and vaccines caused some artists to leave Spotify

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

Earlier this year, Spotify found itself embroiled in a controversy sparked by one of its most notable podcast hosts, Joe Rogan. The comedian’s frequent and sometimes inaccurate claims about Covid-19 and vaccines on his very popular, “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast led some artists to leave the site in protest.

Spotify’s paying customers apparently couldn’t care less.

Despite the backlash, Spotify saw its paid memberships increase, and the platform now has 182 million premium subscribers — up from 180 million in the previous quarter and 15% higher year over year, the company said in its first quarter earnings report Wednesday. Total revenue was up 24% over last year.

Those numbers are roughly in line with what the company said it was expecting in terms of growth. In fact, Spotify noted that it would have done even better had it not pulled out of Russia in April following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Excluding the impact of our exit from Russia, subscriber growth exceeded expectations,” the company said.

So although Rogan may have caused a massive PR headache for the company, Spotify didn’t experience a mass exodus because of him — at least not from those who pay for the service.

In February, artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell told Spotify to pull their music from the platform because of Covid comments made on Rogan’s show. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young said at the time.

Other performers such as Crosby, Stills and Nash and India Arie followed suit.

Following the backlash, Spotify added a content advisory to all podcast episodes that include discussions of Covid-19.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also addressed the controversy in February, saying that the company is “trying to balance creative expression with the safety of our users.”

“Of course, this is a very complicated issue,” Ek said on the company’s February post-earnings. “But I’m really proud of the steps that we took following the concerns raised by the medical and scientific communities.”

As for Rogan, he responded to the situation at the time by saying “he’s not trying to promote misinformation.” More recently, the host claimed he had a subscriber boost because of the uproar.

“It’s interesting, but my subscriptions went up massively. That’s what’s crazy,” Rogan said on an episode earlier this month. “During the height of it all, I gained two million subscribers.”

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