Signs of a cultural divide
Dealing with the crisis in the United States may have been even more complicated because Spotify’s headquarters are nearly 4,000 miles away in Sweden, where Mr. Ek, a shy advertising executive who grew up in a suburb of Stockholm, and many of the company’s engineers and senior employees are based.
Freedom of expression is a deeply held belief in Sweden. Many employees there — and in the United States — were angry when Spotify removed music by R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from playlists in 2018 for content or conduct deemed offensive, a move the company has said. quickly canceled.
Mr. Ek has made it clear that he is reluctant to take on the role of censor. “We’re not here to dictate the pitch these creators want to have on their shows,” he told employees earlier this month in a pitch first reported by The Verge, adding that “if we only wanted to create content that we all love and agree with, we will have to eliminate religion, politics, comedy, health, environment and education, the list goes on and on.
And commercially, censoring Mr. Rogan could alienate his legion of fans and set a slippery precedent with other podcasters, according to Mark Mulligan, industry analyst at Midia Research.
“It could jeopardize their future podcast strategy,” Mulligan said.
In a recent memo to employees, Mr Ek wrote that ‘voice cancellation is a slippery slope’ but acknowledged that a number of episodes of Mr Rogan’s show had been removed from the platform. . He wrote that Mr Rogan decided to remove them after meetings with Spotify executives and “his own thoughts”.
Katherine Rosmann and Ben Sisario reported from New York, Michael Isaac reported from Oakland, California, and Adam Satarian reported from London. Additional reports were provided by Nicole Sperling in Los Angeles and Marc Tracy and Jessica Cheung At New York.