Spotify CEO Daniel Ek condoned Joe Rogan's transphobia, invested millions in war tech

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek condoned Joe Rogan's transphobia, invested millions in war tech
Daniel Ek drew flak in the past for defending Joe Rogan's transphobia (Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Twitter/Joe Rogan, Neil Young)

Global music streaming platform Spotify is facing a mass exodus of premium subscribers after the company's controversial decision to retain Joe Rogan's podcast episodes, notorious for spreading Covid misinformation. The controversy erupted after singer Neil Young served an ultimatum to Spotify, staunchly criticizing their choice to air The Joe Rogan Experience. Much to the disappointment of users worldwide, Spotify decided to retain their extremely popular podcast segment and removed the veteran artist's music instead. 

Soon after Young's music disappeared from Spotify, chaos emerged on the Internet as many slammed the streaming giant for choosing anti-vaxxer Rogan over Young. Apple Music and TIDAL secured trending spots on Twitter as a majority of Spotify users canceled their subscriptions and switched to the other music platforms. Meanwhile, internet sleuths dug out reports of past controversy on Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, particularly when he was found to be a prominent investor in war and defense technology. In November 2021, many artists had boycotted the platform over Daniel Ek's problematic stances. 

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The Swedish billionaire ideated and started Spotify way back in 2006. The music streaming service took over the world after the shut down of Napster and captured a user-base of 217 million people across the world. In 2017, Daniel Ek was named by Billboard as the most powerful person in the music industry. His present net worth is estimated to be around $5 Billion. 

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Daniel Ek, Founder and CEO, Spotify speaks onstage at Spotify Press Announcement on May 20, 2015 in New York City (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Spotify)

However, Ek's illustrious career as an entrepreneur has not been bereft of controversies. Barely two months ago, Daniel Ek emerged in the headlines after he revealed his $113 million investment in Helsing.ai, a European artificial intelligence company that builds national security and defense sector technology. This prompted many artists, who used Spotify as a primary source of revenue, to abandon the platform and condemn Ek's indirect support to war conflict. The #boycottSpotify movement also gained momentum around that time. 

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"Today, I am proud to announce that @PrimaMateria_ is investing €100m in @HelsingAI & that I am joining the board. Prima Materia was founded to partner with teams like Helsing. Ambitious, ethical, & driven by a mission to help build a thriving society," Daniel Ek had tweeted on November 9, 2021. As an immediate backlash, many noted artists and thousands of subscribers slammed the CEO on Twitter. CTM Festival curator Michail Stangl notable responded saying, "Today, I am proud to announce that after having been a Spotify user since the beta in 2007 I cancelled my account because of this, driven by a mission to help build a thriving society - which AI powered weapons systems are most certainly not part of."

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Furthermore, Ek drew flak in September 2020 for defending Spotify's decision to continue airing transphobic content on Joe Rogan podcast. According to Vice, Ek told in an internal company meeting, "Joe Rogan and the episode in question have been reviewed extensively. The fact that we aren’t changing our position doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. It just means we made a different judgment call.”

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More recently, Ek dodged the Rogan controversy around Covid misinformation and anti-vax stance as he said, "What I will say is we have 8 million creators, and hundreds of millions of pieces of content. We have a content policy and we do remove pieces that violate it."

Only time will tell if Daniel Ek's continuous support to Joe Rogan or controversial stances towards certain issues will ring the death knell for Spotify, at a time when several other music streaming platforms are providing better alternatives to users.
 

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