“The Joe Rogan Experience” Backlash


Tessa Macklin

Popular Spotify podcast called “The Joe Rogan Experience” is hosted by its namesake, Joe Rogan. The podcast is estimated to accrue upwards of 11 million listeners per episode. What attracts so many people? Joe Rogan invites celebrities and other major voices onto his show for each episode. These stars have included comedian Joey Diaz, rapper Kayne West, entrepreneur Elon Musk, and many more. The show has been described as an “intellectual dark web,” due to the wide variety and depth of the conversations. Recently, however, the popular podcast has faced an unusual amount of criticism, even resulting in artists pulling their music from the Spotify platform. 

Controversy arose concerning misinformation about COVID-19, specifically vaccines. Rogan sought to defend the guests he had spoke to on his podcast and remarked that they’re opinions were just different from the mainstream media and that they are “‘highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished people’” The host also spoke to the fact that he himself is not a doctor or a scientist and does not possess the ethos necessary to form trustworthy opinions. Spotify, as a platform, did nothing to counter this uproar or misinformation, which resulted in artist Neil Young giving the company an ultimatum. The singer stated that Spotify could either take down the episodes containing the false information or pull his music from the app. Young’s music was removed. However, Young wasn’t the only one. Several other artists such as Burce Springsteen’s guitarist, Nils Lofgren, Young’s former bandmate Graham Nash, and Canadian singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell, have followed Young’s lead and withdrawn their music. Mitchell stated that she stands with Young as well as the medical and scientific communities and doesn’t like that people’s irresponsibility and lies are “costing people their lives.”  In response to losing four artists’ music so far, Spotify has agreed to display a content advisory warning on podcast episodes with discussion about COVID-19. 

Not only has “The Joe Rogan Experience” faced backlash for COVID-19 misinformation, but also for offensive comments about race. R&B singer, India Arie, declared that she will also be removing her music from the platform. The artist felt that she had to walk through the door Neil Young opened after Rogan made comments like “‘the term ‘Black’ is weird’” and people who are “‘like 100% African’” are “‘not wearing any clothes all day, and they’ve developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun.’” 

The list doesn’t end there. Many artists have also voiced their feelings regarding the pay discrepancy between Joe Rogan and themselves. Arie said in a post that she doesn’t feel that Spotify deserves to keep her respect after paying Rogan $100 million for his podcast deal, while only distributing a fraction of a penny to artists. However, musicians like Young and Mitchell aren’t whisking away mere pennies by removing their music. Los Angeles times said that Billboard estimated they “are forsaking 10% of their annual earnings.” 

Although, not all of the responses to Rogan have been purely negative. Celebrity Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson commented on Rogan’s apology that said he would “‘do better,’” research the topics more thoroughly, and try harder to bring on varying opinions to the podcast. Johnson remarked that the video apology was “‘[p]erfectly articulated’” and that he looked forward to drinking with him on the show one day. 

Some think that in order for anything to change significantly, big artists such as Taylor Swift and Eminem would need to revoke their music from Spotify. We will have to wait and see what other celebrities and Spotify do. For now, some are removing Spotify and others are standing by Joe Rogan and his podcast.