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Is everything negotiable?

Is everything negotiable? - nearly, but not quite.

Principles are especially difficult when it comes to conflict. Take the current situation of Spotify versus Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. It appears to be a ‘principle’ for the musicians to not be associated with a company that has allowed a well-known podcaster, Joe Rogan, to communicate ‘vaccine disinformation’ in their view.

Even this principle - and the musician’s subsequent ultimatum, was expressed in the form of a proposal, “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” said Neil Young on his website.

This is a reminder that ‘change’ is by far and away the biggest agent for commercial conflict.

Joe Rogan agreed an exclusive deal with Spotify in 2020 for a reported $100 million dollars. This was a serious investment made by Spotify, further underlined by the fact that Rogan has a reported 11 million listeners to his podcast. A significant chunk of audience for a single artist out of Spotify's 172 million subscribers, and a key part of Spotify’s drive to be a major media platform player.

I do wonder how far Spotify tested the boundaries of the principles of Neil Young to see if there was a way in which they could keep both parties onboard. For example –

‘Under what circumstances would you remain with us with the current podcaster in place?’ or

‘What would we need to do…?’ or

‘Just suppose…’

At the moment though, it looks as if Spotify needs Rogan a lot more than Young or Mitchell, but it’s worth remembering that there’s always a tipping point in these situations. For example, it might come if a sizeable number of artists/celebrities follow Young and Mitchell’s lead, or Rogan’s audience diminishes or the podcast content seriously oversteps the mark. In the interim, it would be wise to keep public comments of such a nature that it leaves the door open to possible future conversations should events change the nature of the discussions going forwards.

Other Spotify starlets – Harry and Megan appear to have aligned themselves with the ‘morally concerned’ group on Spotify – asking them to do the right thing, whilst saying they are ‘committed to continuing to work with the company’ (and obviously keen to protect their $25 million deal) to create a series of podcasts promoting shared values. Important then to ensure Spotify and the high-profile couple share harmonious values themselves.

Spotify has already taken steps to mitigate the rising PR issues associated with this by adding a ‘Content advisory note’ to any content on its platform which discusses covid-19 – a relatively inexpensive interim problem-solving solution. I suspect that whilst Spotify continues to walk this thin line, there may well be some more expensive commercial conflict resolution to follow shortly.

In the meantime, I’m off to listen to Sparks - “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ - I’m sure, it’s on Spotify (other media platform providers, minus Rogan, are of course available!)

Sam Macbeth, 31st January 2022

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