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Spotify CEO says cancelling Joe Rogan isn’t ‘the answer’

Joe Rogan has put Spotify in a tough spot, but the streaming giant is not ready to part ways with the popular podcast host despite intense criticism over his anti-coronavirus vaccine comments and use of racial slurs.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a message to employees Sunday that Rogan’s racist language was “incredibly hurtful” and that the host was behind the removal of dozens of episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience.

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“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some will want more,” Ek said in the note. 

“And I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”

The letter is the clearest indication yet of where Spotify stands on Rogan’s fate with the company as some musicians, including Neil Young, Janis Joplin and India Arie, have pulled their work from the streaming service in protest and others could follow.

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Spotify reportedly paid $100 million to exclusively host Rogan’s podcast, which now threatens the bottom line but is also a key part of the company’s strategy to be a one-stop shop for audio.

“We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but cancelling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress,” Ek wrote.

He said he was “deeply sorry” for the impact the controversy was having on Spotify’s employees. Rogan apologized Saturday for his use of the N-word on some past episodes.

Spotify’s move likely won’t sit well with one side of an increasingly polarized country where there are heightened sensitivities on race and vaccine misinformation, experts say.

In his letter, Ek announced an investment of $100 million to license, develop and market “music and audio content from historically marginalized groups,” without giving more details.

Rogan’s public troubles started on January 24 when Young asked to have his music removed over concerns Rogan was promoting skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines. Other artists followed suit, including Joni Mitchell and Roxane Gay.-AP

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