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Remember How Spotify Promised To Make Up for Joe Rogan With a $100 Million Diversity Fund? Whatever Happened To That?

Joe Rogan mugs at the camera while sitting at a computer inside an arena, wearing headphones.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must, unfortunately, know who Joe Rogan is. For the uninitiated, Rogan is a “comedian” and podcast host of The Joe Rogan Experience, where millions of listeners tune into his show every week using the streaming platform Spotify. The show is definitely something as Rogan hosts a wide array of guests from actors to musicians to doctors to right-wing conspiracists who use his platform to spread misinformation.

Wait, what?

Yes, Rogan is notorious for using his massive platform to host a litany of harmful ideas without being challenged. Rogan has hosted and agreed with transphobic authors like Abigail Shrier who wrote the controversial book Irreversible Damage, which highlights Shrier’s “belief in rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), the discredited idea that gender dysphoria can emerge as a social contagion or through peer influence.” He’s spread a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines for it during the pandemic which caused several health professionals to write an open letter to Spotify asking the platform to “implement a misinformation policy.” And he has a long history of racism—he’s said the N-word on his show while encouraging other white guests to say it too and once compared being in a Black neighborhood to “being in Planet of the Apes. Rogan is not just an edgy podcast host who goes off the cuff once in a while: He’s dangerous.

However, all of his terrible behavior didn’t stop Spotify from handing Rogan a $100 million contract in 2021 so they could exclusively host his show. Even when musicians like Neil Young and India Aire pulled their music from the platform directly because of Rogan’s actions, Spotify still stood behind him. In a letter to Spotify staff obtained by The Hollywood Reporter in February 2022, CEO Daniel Ek explained that while he “condemns” Rogan’s actions, he didn’t believe in “silencing” him because “canceling voices is a slippery slope.”

However, Ek did pledge that the platform would invest $100 million in what he called the Creator Equity Fund, which would be used for the “licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups” as a symbolic peace offering for the continued platforming of Rogan.

But almost a year later, it has been revealed by Bloomberg that Spotify has only used less than 10% of the Creator Equity Fund. At the beginning of 2023, Spotify was still “finalizing” the fund’s budget and “sorting out” the platform’s priority projects, which hindered the progress of the platform’s project manager and teams whose job was to pitch ideas, create new shows, and assist with marketing. According to a statement from unionized employees at Spotify’s true crime podcast network Parcast given to Bloomberg, employees are “seriously questioning this company’s commitment to funding this committee, and by extension, the values it represents.”

While this isn’t the first time Spotify has seemingly gone back on their word when it comes to initiatives that are supposed to make their platform a better and more inclusive place, it’s still disappointing to see a company not able to deliver even the bare minimum.

But hey, I guess helping marginalized groups is way harder than platforming a racist, transphobic meathead!

(featured image: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

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Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a freelance writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or forcing her friends to watch some random video she found. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.