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Joe Rogan Podcasts cause strike threats by Spotify employees

A contingent of activist Spotify staffers are now considering a walkout or full-blown strike if their demands for direct editorial oversight of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast aren’t met.

Spotify employees were demanding direct editorial oversight over the recently-acquired Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Rogan’s appeal to millions of listeners is his unfiltered and irreverent approach, though that style isn’t sitting well with an activist group of Spotify staffers who say he needs to be reined in.

Direct editorial oversight would include the ability to directly edit or remove sections of upcoming interviews, or block the uploading of episodes deemed problematic. The employees also demanded the ability to add trigger warnings, corrections, and references to fact-checked articles on topics discussed by Rogan in the course of his multi-hour discussions.

Some demands have already been met by Spotify management, though a refusal to allow further changes is stirring talk of a high-profile walkout or strike.  Preliminary plans for the strike were shared with Digital Music News and would involve New York-based Spotify employees with protests outside Spotify’s Manhattan headquarters, accompanied by media appearances and coordination with other activist organisations.

For Spotify, the decision to offer concessions may have only started an increased demand for wide-scale editorial oversight.

When Rogan's podcast transitioned to Spotify, multiple past episodes were omitted. Those included interviews with Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and Alex Jones. Additionally, Rogan issued a rare public apology and correction over his claim that left-wing anarchists had set fires in Oregon, a point that was made during a recent interview with Douglas Murray.  The apology is now believed to be the result of pressure from Spotify staffers.

But those measures don’t go far enough for the Spotify staff. Despite demands that the offending section be removed or directly corrected within the audio itself, Rogan’s claim during the Murray podcast is still part of the podcast recording. It now appears that Spotify is unwilling to directly edit or otherwise alter any existing episodes, with content alteration considered a bright line that shouldn’t be crossed.

Spotify’s management has also refused to remove a more contentious recent episode involving Abigail Shrier. Shrier appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience in July and has drawn the most protest from the activist Spotify employees. She is a Wall Street Journal writer and author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.

Her episode drew accusations of transphobia from a contingent of LGTBQ+ Spotify employees, who reportedly demanded changes in more than ten separate meetings with Spotify upper management. Shrier sharply questioned whether extremely young women should be undergoing gender-transition operations, treatments, and therapies, while also questioning whether many of these women are genuinely trans or simply seeking acceptance and validation. 

Spotify's decision to keep the episode intact has been viewed as a serious affront by the protesting employees. The same group is now discussing the high-profile strike or walkout as a next move.

The walkout is a risky move.

Spotify employees reportedly enjoy comfortable salaries in the $120-$130,000 annual range, with considerable perks and benefits.  These are plum jobs in extremely uncertain economic times, making a strike a risky move.

It also appears that Spotify management has a limited tolerance for the mutiny on deck. Accordingly, Digital music news has learned that Spotify clearly shared its decision on the Shrier episode, and has declined continued demands to edit or remove other episodes.

The reason for pushback is somewhat obvious.  Joe Rogan’s entire identity revolves around unfiltered discussion and opinion, and audiences could abandon the podcast if it becomes censored or controlled.  Earlier this year, Spotify lured Rogan into an exclusive relationship with an estimated $100 million deal.