Recent reports suggest that Barack and Michelle Obama are considering leaving Spotify amidst the controversy surrounding Joe Rogan, a comedian whose controversial interviews have spurred demands in leftist circles for the removal of his podcast from Spotify’s content library. The Obamas currently host several podcasts, including President Obama’s Renegades: Born in the USA podcast, co-hosted with Bruce Springsteen, and The Michelle Obama Podcast, hosted by the former First Lady.
Despite the timing of the story, the Obamas’ dissatisfaction with Spotify appears to have been simmering for some time. On the one hand, the Obama team is reportedly frustrated with Spotify, increasingly “finding it difficult to get additional shows off the ground.” Spotify, meanwhile, is, according to one source, frustrated with “pitches that don’t always align with Spotify’s interest in popular, wide-reaching shows.” Reportedly, the “Obamas are more interested in lifting young new voices than carrying shows themselves, and… this focus hasn’t always aligned with Spotify’s” neither the Obamas nor their production company, Higher Ground, appear to have commented on the story.
The Obamas’ troubles with Spotify come amidst a plethora of celebrities leaving or considering leaving Spotify in response to the Rogan controversy. After signer Neil Young asked for his music to be removed from Spotify in protest of Joe Rogan’s podcast, many celebrities, including David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash (all of whom were formerly in a band with Young); Brene Brown, of TED Talk fame; prominent Trump critic and niece of the former President, Mary Trump; author Roxane Gay; musician Joni Mitchell; guitarist Nils Lofgren; and podcaster and musician India Arie have all either requested their content be removed from Spotify or have paused new releases pending the resolution of the conflict. While some comments were relatively generic, many were more bombastic. Ms. Arie, for example, posted to Instagram that “Neil Young opened a door that I MUST walkthrough,” before going on to discuss racially insensitive remarks made on Rogan’s podcast. She later went on Good Morning America where she said, among other things, that she “didn’t believe in cancel culture.”
Many more content producers on Spotify, such as Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, “expressed concerns” without actually going so far as to ask for the removal of their content.
Even if Rogan were to leave Spotify, his podcast would likely still be available, likely through Spotify competitors such as Apple or Pandora. Rumble has offered Rogan one hundred million dollars for exclusive rights to his podcast.