Skip to main content

India Arie Pulls Music From Spotify Over Joe Rogan’s Long History of Racism

In this photo illustration, "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast is viewed on Spotify's mobile app

Content warning: racism

In recent days, a handful of legendary musicians including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell made the decision to pull their music from Spotify over the platform’s refusal to stop Joe Rogan from spreading COVID-19 misinformation on his podcast.

Now singer/songwriter India Arie has also announced that she’ll be pulling her music from Spotify, and is also reminding us all that Rogan’s misinformation campaign—while incredibly harmful—is not the only reason to question his close relationship with the streaming platform.

“I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogen problematic for reasons OTHER than his Covid interviews,” Arie wrote on Instagram. “FOR ME ITS ALSO HIS language around race.”

Rogan’s language around race is abhorrent. He’s repeatedly said the n-word on his show and encouraged white guests to say it. (He’s defended that by saying “It’s not real racism, it’s a joke. There’s a difference.” There is not, actually, especially not the way he does it.)

He once said being in a Black neighborhood was like being in Planet of the Apes.

Just last week, Rogan claimed it was “weird” to call someone Black unless they are “100% African from the darkest place where they are not wearing any clothes all day.” He said this while speaking to fellow white bigot Jordan Peterson (Rogan seems to say he identifies as “Italian,” not white), talking about Black author and academic Michael Eric Dyson. They suggested he should refer to himself as “brown” because his skin color isn’t dark enough for their liking.

Rogan’s bigotry and that of his guests also takes the form of misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and a staggering history of transphobia.

Spotify’s unusual relationship with Rogan

There are plenty of people who might agree that this is all abhorrent but don’t think Spotify needs to deplatform Rogan. But Spotify isn’t just tolerating Rogan’s bigotry and public health misinformation, they’re rewarding it.

In 2020, Spotify signed Rogan to a $100 million exclusive licensing deal. That’s an incredible amount of money, especially for a company that notoriously has some of the lowest pay-out rates among all streaming platforms for musicians.

On Instagram India Arie wrote, “What I am talking about is RESPECT – who gets it and who doesn’t.”

“Paying musicians a fraction of a penny and HIM $100M?” she wrote. “This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep.”

A lot of people are trying to paint the outrage over Spotify’s relationship with Rogan as a “culture war”/”cancel culture” issue. It’s not.

Yes, it would be best if Spotify didn’t give a platform to someone who espouses the kinds of bigotry and dangerous misinformation Rogan does. But Spotify has made this a financial issue by putting a hundred million dollars and infinite privileges behind those ideas, while undervaluing nearly every other artist it hosts.

Arie and all the other musicians who are pulling their catalogs, as well as every user who has decided to cancel their Spotify subscriptions, are simply exercising their freedom of speech—the very thing so many people seem so intent on defending on behalf of Rogan.

If Spotify is going to pay him a hundred million dollars to say whatever he wants, it’s not intolerant, it’s not “cancel culture,” it’s not any of these things, for the rest of us to say we don’t want to support that.

(image: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.