I don't know how you might feel about the recent controversy regarding COVID, Joe Rogan, Spotify, and other artists on the platform. But, if you're running a business, I think it's worth watching the short video Rogan just posted to Instagram.
(The video is embedded at the end of this column.)
Quick background. This will take a minute, but it's important.
Rogan, you might know, hosts a wildly popular eponymous podcast ("The Joe Rogan Experience"). Spotify has the exclusive rights, which cost the company $100 million.
During the pandemic, however, Rogan has been criticized for lending his platform to guests accused of spreading "COVID-19 misinformation."
Most pointedly, a group of 270 medical professionals wrote an open letter last month alleging that Rogan, "has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine."
They detailed specific criticisms and allegations, and the letter got some attention. But more recently, a handful of artists asked Spotify to remove their music or else said they won't upload more content to the platform.
The most prominent among these other performers: musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, and academic and podcaster, Brené Brown.
That apparently moved the needle, and we have two responses worth noting:
- First, Spotify published a 700-word post, under the byline of its CEO, Daniel Ek, promising to make its platform rules public, and to add a content advisory to podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19. (As my colleague Jason Aten pointed out, there was a striking omission in Ek's post: he never mentioned Rogan's name.)
- Second, Rogan posted his video to Instagram late Sunday. (For what it's worth, and this can be self-reinforcing, but still: Spotify's stock rebounded Monday, after falling throughout January.)
Certainly, there is danger in promoting voices that could encourage people to do the exact opposite of what most public health experts advise during the pandemic. Yet, while I can't judge someone's sincerity, if you watch the Rogan video, I think you'll notice a few key things that might make it quite effective:
- First, by my count, Rogan says he's sorry regarding Young and Mitchell ("I'm very sorry they feel that way") and Spotify ("I'm very sorry that this is happening to them and that they're taking so much heat from it"), plus one more "sorry" that I'll mention separately below. But, that's it; he doesn't dwell on apologies.
- Next, he makes concessions, while not embracing blame. Not everyone will appreciate how he does this, but it's interesting: He defends his podcast guests, but also says he'll plan to have other guests with more and different messages.
- Third, he's very personal, telling a story about being a fan of Neil Young's music, and also describing his ongoing surprise that his podcast has gotten so big and influential:
"You know, I do all the scheduling myself and I don't always get it right. These podcasts are very strange, because they're just conversations. And oftentimes, I have no idea what I'm going to talk about until I sit down and talk to people.
That's why some of my ideas are not that prepared or fleshed out, because I'm literally having them in real time. But I do my best and they're just conversations and I think that's also the appeal of the show. It's one of the things that makes it interesting."
I'll interject to say that I think this is a tonally effective and humanizing approach, but one that doesn't address the real issue: Namely, if you have 11 million listeners, you probably have an obligation to do a bit more preparation and avoid misinformation.
(He does go on to say, "I am going to do my best in the future to balance things out." So, we shall see what that means.)
Still, I come here neither to praise Rogan nor to bury him, but instead to help you find what's most useful in his example. As a result, I think there's one more big takeaway.
It has to do with the emphasis Rogan puts on gratitude, instead of apologies. I ran an AI transcript of the video, and it was striking how much Rogan says two words over and over: "thank you."
Here's how he wraps everything up:
"So if I pissed you off, I'm sorry. And if you enjoy the podcast, thank you. Thank you very much.
Thank you to Spotify. Thank you all the supporters and and even thank you to the haters because it's good to have some haters. It makes you reassess what you're doing and put things into perspective. ...
Much love to you all. Thank you to everyone. I'm gonna do my best."
I don't know if Rogan thought through what he was going to say ahead of time, or if he simply said what came naturally. But, regular readers will know that I preach as often as I can about the virtues of ending on sincere notes of gratitude.
It's an important point in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People With Very High Emotional Intelligence: People remember how you make them feel, more than what you say or do. So, you can do a lot worse, than to leave them feeling that you appreciate them.
Here's Rogan's Instagram video. I'll be curious to learn how other people react to it.