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One can say with relative certainty that a young Joe Rogan could not have predicted at the height of his MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) career he would one day host one of the world’s most popular podcasts and himself become a figure of immense cultural influence. Yet life is full of surprises, and that is exactly what happened. Over the past decade, Rogan has developed a show whose discussions would be discussed not just across America, but the entire world.
Guests included the most powerful politicians, actors, singers, comedians, commentators, sportspeople and everything else in-between. Each episode would garner tens of millions of downloads, views and interactions, while some of the biggest media outlets would effectively produce post-match write-ups of every episode. The Joe Rogan Experience was a true cultural phenomenon. So how is it a show at its absolute prime appears to have suddenly gone off everyone’s radar? Well, it’s quite simple really; money.
Last June, Spotify announced that they had signed a $100 million deal with Rogan to take his podcast exclusively onto their platform. This deal came into effect on January 1st and the ramifications have been clear. Whereas once every episode would drop on YouTube and people’s dedicated podcast provider (usually Apple or Google podcasts), the show now only appears on an app that most people associate with music rather than long-form conversations. The show is not difficult to find, but the ramifications of taking it from every corner of the internet to just one single platform have been massive.
A prime example of these ramifications has been with one of Rogan’s most popular ever guests, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In his two appearances on the show, clips of Musk explaining his most sophisticated technological designs to lighting up a spliff in the studio gained tens of millions of views across all manner of platforms. Now, short clips from certain episodes are selectively uploaded to YouTube, while anyone uploading footage themselves is subject to immediate copyright claims. Clips from Musk’s most recent appearance have appeared across the internet, but nothing like on the scale that they did before.
Since the moment Rogan signed the deal, there were demands within Spotify to start censoring his content, particularly over his alleged “transphobia.” Rogan claimed at the time that he would retain full editorial independence over the show, although it is becoming increasingly clear that he is under intense pressure to tone down his own commentary and that of his guests. Having once attacked the lunacy of the progressive left on various issues, he now makes painstaking efforts to assert that the “woke” fanatics have “good intentions” and “think they’re doing the right thing.”
However, the most unforgivable aspect of all is how Rogan has let Spotify, which retains full rights to the show, has deleted at least 40 episodes from the back catalog. Many of these episodes, whose guests included activist Tommy Chong, comedian Joey Diaz, and Mikhaila Peterson, (daughter of Jordan Peterson), were some of the most popular interviews Rogan has ever done. During a recent episode with guest Fahim Anwar, Rogan even admitted he didn’t care about such interference, saying: “They haven’t given me a hard time at all. There were a few episodes they didn’t want on their platform, I was like ‘okay, I don’t care.’”
It is hard to begrudge a man who builds such a successful career and cashes in his chips when the opportunity arises. The Joe Rogan Experience is still a going concern, and many of his guests are still worth listening to. However, that does not change the fact that the show once loved by its audience for its willingness to bypass the mainstream media and delve into the most controversial topics is now effectively a wholly corporate production. The days of opening The Overton Window are well and truly over.