Joe Rogan may be the trailblazer for podcasts, much like Howard Stern was to satellite radio.
One of the biggest MMA related stories over the past week has to be Joe Rogan signing over to Spotify. Whether you follow the Joe Rogan Experience or not, consuming that news was unavoidable. When a contract is worth upwards of $100M and is in the New York Times, everyone will have an opinion. And regardless of how you view Rogan’s show, it is certain to change the industry of podcasting and streaming as we know it.
In the past, it wasn’t hard to find me critical of some of Rogan’s antics. His handling of Stephen A. Smith’s comments still doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve also only heard a limited amount of shows, in their entirety, due to time constraints. Luckily, YouTube constantly sends me clips more pertinent to my particular taste. But it is clear that while the move to Spotify makes perfect sense for Rogan, there were some who seemed frustrated by the shift. While most seemed happy for the move, there were some who were critical of Rogan assuming he had “sold out.”
In my typical fashion, I always like to take a back seat to initial gut-check reactions before I dive into a subject like this. And after everyone had time to digest this story, I started to put the pieces together. Today, I was joined by a popular St. Louis radio DJ and On-Air personality extraordinaire, Lauren Elwell, or “Lern.” Elwell has been part of KSHE 95, St. Louis Rock station for more than a decade. KSHE 95, “the Rock of St. Louis” is a 100,00 watt station serving the Greater St. Louis area for more than 50 years. Elwell, a graduate of the Mass Communication School at Illinois State University, studied not only radio broadcasting but the future of content consumption, which is a nice way of saying to future of broadcasting.
Elwell was actually the first to make the comparison to me of Rogan being like Howard Stern.
In our discussion, we busted a few misconceptions surrounding the Rogan-Spotify deal. First, this contract isn’t a flat $100M, even Rogan wouldn’t discuss the exact dollar amount. However, he did feel a bit of remorse for his contract during a pandemic that has millions out of work. Secondly, and this is a big one, there was confusion how Rogan’s deal would influence payments of artists who post their music to Spotify. The simple answer is it won’t. We broke down, in basic terms, how the pay structure works for Spotify, but that is a moot point here as podcasters and musicians are not compensated similarly at all.
Then this discussion quickly turned into a discourse of communication theory. Elwell and I theorized about how the content is consumed and what the longterm outcome of that is. If we understand that the medium is always the message, we can agree that this deal is going to change how we consume media.
“I think that it’s all very connected,” Elwell stated.
“I think that what will happen here is this deal, this exclusivity deal, is going to be the precedent for other mainstream heavy hitters … you’ll start seeing more of these deals being broken. I would be very interested to see what Siruis XM’s move is because, hopefully, they’re thinking about Stern leaving and who is going to fill that content void for them. Who is going to drive subscriptions to Sirius XM after their God is gone,” she continued.
Of course, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
One main talking point about this deal was how much control Rogan would maintain. Though he has stated that he would keep his show the same, that could be a devil’s bargain when dealing with a contract of this size. It sounds good that Rogan would maintain the course and continue as he always has. That might be a tall order though if Spotify doesn’t see dividends from this. And if Spotify tells Rogan he has to make a change, he would be contractually obligated to do so.
“This deal has made static electricity for podcast platforms and we’re going to start seeing that change and then, over time, we’re going to slowly see content change,” Elwell suggested.
“And there could be a new subscription charge, or something. It all flows downhill to the consumer who the whole reason that any of these people are successful, any of these platforms are successful is because of us who listen to these platforms. But we, in the end, will always be the ones that are screwed because we will either be sitting through a million ads, because they will need to have the money coming to pay the people working there, and artists, and the people that are content creators as they should be paid. But at the end of the bucks it’s us. So I guess my ending message on this medium is ‘hold on to your butts’ because the wave of the wild west of content and fun we’re having with podcasts, because of this Joe Rogan deal, we are going to start to see massive evolution start to come across all of that. You heard it here first,” She finished.
Time will tell what comes from this deal with Spotify. Rogan has certainly become one of the biggest podcasters on the planet. Ideally, we would hope that Rogan keeps Joe Rogan Experience the exact same, but gets paid for what he has created. What will be most interesting will, in fact, be the responses from other media outlets. Who will iTunes and Sirius try to sign next? What kinds of deals will this be responsible for? It may be simply a podcast, but in the podcast world Joe Rogan is the Emperor.