The temporary disappearance of a recent Joe Rogan interview with Alex Jones wasn’t an accident, according to sources within Spotify.
Last month, Joe Rogan did the unthinkable — at least in the eyes of Spotify employees demanding editorial oversight over The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan, who recently inked an estimated $100 million exclusive podcasting deal with Spotify, brought Alex Jones as a guest in October. Jones was previously banned from the platform by Spotify higher-ups, though those same executives refused to remove the controversial episode despite heavy demands from activist employees.
Then, something strange happened. The episode mysteriously disappeared from the stack of Rogan’s podcasts, and share links to the podcast became inoperable. That mishap certainly seemed suspicious, though it was immediately dismissed as an accident — including by Rogan himself.
“The conspiracy about the show with the conspiracy theorist,” Rogan quipped after fans sounded the alarm.
“The episode that was uploaded to Spotify had some cache issues, and it wasn’t working correctly on some devices, so the engineers had Jamie re-upload it with the same date, thinking it would fix the problem but still play for everyone like it was never missing,” Rogan continued.
That ‘cache issues’ explanation sounded reasonable, except for one problem. As far as we’re aware, no other Spotify podcast episode had previously experienced the ‘cache issue’ mentioned. As you might expect, a lot of Rogan fans simply weren’t buying it.
Now, two sources within Spotify, specifically within podcasting subdivisions, have confirmed that at least one employee is responsible for intentionally removing the Joe Rogan episode.
The employee’s name was not released to Digital Music News, even though we agreed not to publish any identifying information. Instead, the sources decided not to share the name given that an investigation could be forthcoming, and nobody’s been proven guilty, fired, or otherwise punished.
Still, repercussions could be forthcoming. One source confidently noted that “this [removal was] definitely no accident,” while further noting that “[the evidence] is in the logs” and can be proven. Specifically, it appears that the episode was removed from the stack with an attempted permanent delete, which promulgated the cacheing issue (because there was nothing to cache anymore).
Engineers within Spotify soon started troubleshooting the issue, and eventually moved to replace the master file while alerting Rogan and his team (including his assistant Jamie) of the issue.
That last part is critical, because Rogan himself was apparently not alerted to any foul play.
Instead, a second source told us that Rogan was “fed the mumbo jumbo” related to technical concerns, with “a lotta tech jargon” to throw off the scent. That seemed to work, with Rogan himself working to dispel any notions of employee interference.
Exactly what happens next is unclear, though this looks like a touchy political subject. The second source also noted that Spotify’s executives may not pursue the issue, given the sensitivity internally over Joe Rogan. That includes the previous ban on Alex Jones uploads, as well as a string of earlier meetings relating to Joe Rogan’s content.
Update, November 30th: Spotify has now denied any foul play in the deleted episode, attributing the issue entirely to a technical glitch. “The issue with the episode was entirely technical and any suggestion that it was a result of nefarious activity by someone on the Spotify team is completely false,” Spotify head of communications Grey Munford emailed Digital Music News, after initially requesting not to be named. After being told that server logs could be forthcoming, Munford stated: “The Spotify statement below is accurate.” More as this develops — additional sources are urged to contact [email protected]
Earlier, Spotify employees reportedly demanded that additional episodes be removed, including an interview with Abigail Shrier deemed to be transphobic (the episode is still live). Previously, Spotify quietly omitted a number of older episodes while migrating Joe Rogan’s catalog to their platform, including an earlier discussion with Alex Jones.
At one point, the group of activist employees — largely based in New York — threatened a walkout if not given direct editorial oversight over Joe Rogan’s podcasts, though the Spotify executives pushed back and the strike never materialized.
More as this develops.