By Alex Dew
Art by Ben Jordan
Joe Rogan announced May 19th that he had struck a history-making deal with audio streaming service Spotify, which paid an undisclosed amount for the exclusive rights to his popular podcast. Immediately following the announcement, Spotify’s stock rocketed 11% and its market cap increased by over five billion, and the deal could make Rogan the world’s highest-paid broadcaster. Rogan was paid over $100 million according to the Wall Street Journal, making the deal one of the single largest the industry has ever seen. Industry experts view the deal as a turning point in the industry that will solidify Spotify as not only a top streaming service but a content-creation giant and have a ripple effect in many other types of media. Tuesday’s announcement, which handed Spotify exclusive rights to “The Joe Rogan Experience,” sent Spotify’s stock through the roof: it added $1.7 billion to its market cap in 23 minutes.
Rogan, who got his start acting in sitcoms such as “News Radio” and “Hardball” and doing stand-up comedy, gained fame as the host of “Fear Factor” and as a UFC commentator. In his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” launched in 2009, he hosts marathon interviews with anyone from Bernie Sanders to Elon Musk to Alex Jones. The podcast has taken up residence in the number two position on the podcast charts for the past few years, and reaches millions of listeners — Rogan says he gets almost 190 million downloads per month.
Rogan, an unofficial Libertarian who openly smokes weed (he and Musk indulged in a joint during Musk’s interview), begins his day with shroom coffee, and hunts with bow-and-arrow, played it coy when asked for details on the deal, telling the New York Times, “It feels gross. Especially right now, when people can’t work.” This down-to-earth, man’s man ethos has established Rogan as somewhat of a god to the American men who make up the vast majority of his listeners and view him as an aspirational figure and a symbol of a particular male culture threatened by an increasingly politically correct society. But Rogan’s appeal seems to transcend race, and his deal with Spotify solidifies him as a major force to be reckoned with not only in the podcasting arena, but in media in general.
It’s not only a major boost for Rogan but also one for Spotify, and the deal follows several podcasting deals made by the company, including one in which they paid $340 million for podcasting companies Gimlet and Anchor in February of 2019. While many people may think of Spotify as synonymous with music streaming, the deals come after a blog post written by Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek proclaiming that “audio, not music” was the future of the company and praising the “incredible growth potential” of the podcast industry. Since Ek’s post in 2019, podcast industry growth has been modest, but the company is obviously sticking to its game plan. The reason might surprise you: while podcasts are forecasted to bring in only a measly $1 billion in total industry profits this year compared to $21 billion from recorded music, they give the company the ability to create its own content, much like Netflix.
The multi-year exclusive licensing deal also signals Rogan’s break with Apple’s streaming service, previously used by the majority of his listeners. Apple Podcasts currently enjoys 52% of the podcast market compared to Spotify’s 19%, but Rogan’s enormous fan base will undoubtedly follow him to Spotify, which will stream new episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” starting in September and host his entire catalog of old episodes.
Rogan fans need not be concerned that the move will alter the show in any way, as Rogan has repeatedly stressed in comments on social media, saying “I am not an employee of Spotify.” After all, it is this answer-to-no-one, DGAF mentality that made Rogan so popular with the American males who will likely follow him to Spotify and enable the company to transform from a small Swedish disrupter to a content-creation behemoth.