OBAMA DONE WITH SPOTIFY? Amid Calls to Ditch Joe Rogan, Obama Weighs His Options

According to the Daily Wire, Barack and Michelle Obama are considering a jump from the streaming giant; their three-year contract is about to expire.

“The Obama’s team at Higher Ground is ‘frustrated with the slow pace of development at Spotify, where it can be hard to get a greenlight,’ according to an Insider report. “One source said Higher Ground’s pitches don’t always align with the platform’s focus on shows that can reach a wide audience,” DW reports.

But the timing is strange, especially with the Rogan controversy at a fever pitch.

Vanity Fair reports:

With his outsize media footprint, no-f***s-given hosting style, and an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, Rogan is, like it or not, the face of Spotify’s podcasting play. It’s a face that comes with voluble “anti-woke” bona fides; a hyper-macho sensibility somewhere between MAGA and Bernie Bro; and, most problematically, a warm embrace of vaccine skepticism. But all of that is part of the appeal for Rogan’s loyal army of superfans, many of them young and male, which is what makes him so valuable to a company whose success depends on attracting large numbers of engaged paying subscribers. In the words of one seasoned audio industry insider, having Joe Rogan “is like dropping a Taylor Swift album every day. Spotify needs him way more than he needs Spotify.” (Spotify didn’t have a comment for this story.)

The Joe Rogan Experience, which debuted in the earlier and comparatively quaint podcasting era of 2009, towers over its Spotify peers. Part of that has to do with the reality that the company’s other big-ticket deals just simply haven’t gained the same traction. Harry and Meghan have produced a lone 33-minute holiday special since inking a reported $25 million Spotify contract in December 2020. (They currently don’t have anything else in development with Spotify, someone familiar with the matter confirmed.) The Obamas, whose 2019 deal was rumored to be in the same general ballpark, have produced a few compelling shows, including one podcast hosted by Michelle Obama and another in which Barack Obama teamed up with Bruce Springsteen. But the buzz around these efforts has paled in comparison to the couples’ best-selling memoirs, or even the award-winning features they’ve produced for a separate content deal they have with Netflix. Moreover, informed sources told me the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, has been frustrated with Spotify at times, finding it difficult to get additional shows off the ground. I’m told the Obamas are more interested in lifting young new voices than carrying shows themselves, and that this focus hasn’t always aligned with Spotify’s. (Another source said that Spotify and Higher Ground are in active production on new shows in this vein.) As for the other offerings under the Spotify banner, chances are you haven’t heard of them. But you almost certainly hear about Joe Rogan every time something crazy is said on his show.