CEO-splaining to Spotify employees part 2: the memo

“I think it’s important you’re aware that we’ve had conversations with Joe and his team about some of the content in his show, including his history of using some racially insensitive language. Following these discussions and his own reflections, he chose to remove a number of episodes from Spotify. He also issued his own apology over the weekend.”

The racially insensitive language being referred to here is specifically Rogan’s use of the N-word. A compilation of Rogan’s use of the word was published last week and that is Rogan’s second apology in the past week addressed.

  • Spotify reviewed the episodes before signing the deal but found no problem with publishing the content.

“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. And I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”

Daniel Ek here uses two words borrowed from a disingenuous online debate: silencing and canceling. Both of those words betray the debate that employees are trying to have. They are straw men tactics.

“In last week’s Town Hall, I outlined to you that we are not the publisher of JRE. But perception due to our exclusive license implies otherwise. So I’ve been wrestling with how this perception squares with our values.”

Remember when I wrote this in my previous post:

“So I am committing to an incremental investment of $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups. This will dramatically increase our efforts in these areas.”

I wrote this on Twitter as a response to this:

Daniel Ek doesn’t appear to have a clue as to how brutally ignorant it is to communicate the same dollar figure for many marginalized creators as the one sum they just paid one profusely privileged man…

The idea communicated is that the exact amount bandied about in the media as the dollar figure for an exclusive deal with Joe Rogan ($100 million), is the same dollar amount to be shared around to improve diversity and inclusivity in the whole podcasting industry.

“For me, I come back to centering on our mission of unlocking the potential of human creativity and enabling more than a billion people to enjoy the work of what we think will be more than 50 million creators. That mission makes these clashes worth the effort.”

Here we are seeing more candor. These clashes are worth the effort.

  • I interpret effort as things like harm to wellbeing, internal tension and widespread disapproval.

“One of the things I am thinking about is what additional steps we can take to further balance creator expression with user safety. I’ve asked our teams to expand the number of outside experts we consult with on these efforts and forward to sharing more details.”

Two things to take away from this.

Summing up

We are far from seeing the end of this debacle. I am concerned with both the learning moments of this but also with the wellbeing of those mostly affected by the ordeals. Which obviously isn’t me. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you believe there is something I could have worded differently or should be more careful with when bringing up.



Making tech safe and compassionate through design, coaching and teaching. Independent consultant. Co-host of UX Podcast. Primary publication:

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Per Axbom

Per Axbom

Making tech safe and compassionate through design, coaching and teaching. Independent consultant. Co-host of UX Podcast. Primary publication: