Spotify predicted 2022’s start will be rockier than Wall Street was hoping, but CEO Daniel Ek said that 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 Wednesday during a call with Wall Street analysts to discuss the company’s latest financial results. He added that when the company has faced controversies in the past, the effects were “measured in months, not days.”
“But I feel good about where we are,” he said.
Spotify crossed the 400 million listeners mark at the end of last year, the company reported earlier Wednesday, a benchmark underscoring its dominance of streaming music worldwide. But the milestone came three weeks before hashtags like #CancelSpotify started trending, sparked by artists’ protests over COVID misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience. 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. 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.
Ek responded to the controversy, saying 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.”
With investors unsettled by the company’s sober growth outlook, Spotify’s stock tanked. Shares were down 11% at $171 in recent after-hours trading. Spotify’s stock may have also been caught up in a wider tech-industry sell-off, a domino effect of Facebook-owner Meta’s stock cratering because of its own bleak financial report.
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