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Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen team up for timely new Spotify podcast

Springsteen and Obama sit at a table; in the background are guitars and recording equipment.
Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have a new podcast together on Spotify.
(Rob DeMartin)

Spotify continues to tout its investment in the podcast space, announcing on Monday a new exclusive program by former President Obama and veteran musician Bruce Springsteen.

The eight-episode podcast, called “Renegades: Born in the USA,” is a discussion between Obama and Springsteen as they explore issues including race, fatherhood and divisions in the country. The men became friends after they met in 2008 on the campaign trail.

“In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys, trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much,” said Obama during the first episode. “Trying to chronicle the stories of its people. Looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America.”

The first two episodes became available on Spotify on Monday. In the first episode, Springsteen shared that he grew up in Freehold, N.J., which he called “your typical, small, provincial, redneck, racist little American 1950s town.” He captured what it was like to be raised there in “My Hometown,” which he sang on the podcast.

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“Renegades” is the second podcast to come from a partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. Last year, Michelle Obama launched an exclusive podcast with Spotify.

Spotify, which began as a music streaming service, has rapidly grown in podcasting in recent years with a series of acquisitions including New York-based Gimlet Media and L.A. podcast companies Parcast and the Ringer.

“We’re in the midst of an explosion of audio creation, the early innings of what we see as a truly global, creative economy,” said Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek at a livestreamed event Monday.

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The streamer is on a rapid growth trajectory as it faces competition from other media companies that are also investing in podcasting and advertising opportunities in the medium.

Barack and Michelle Obama have inked a deal to make podcasts for streaming music giant Spotify, in the latest expansion of the former president and first lady’s nascent media business.

Last week, iHeartRadio said it would buy L.A.-based ad technology company Triton Digital for $230 million. Amazon recently purchased West Hollywood-based podcast publisher Wondery and last year, SiriusXM announced plans to buy Stitcher for up to $325 million.

Spotify has more than 345 million users and 155 million subscribers. The company offers its streaming service for free with ads and an option for listeners who prefer to pay a monthly subscription to listen to music ad-free.

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The streaming service is available in nearly half the world, but the company said it plans to increase its reach by an additional 1 billion people.

In the next few days, the company will expand to 85 new markets worldwide, including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria, Spotify said. The company is in 93 markets and will add 36 languages to its platform.

At a time when many Hollywood productions have been shelved and workers are losing their jobs, Spotify is continuing to see rapid growth in its podcast business.

For consumers in these countries, Spotify’s availability will mean access to the streaming service as well as tools that will enable them to create and upload their own podcasts.

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“We’re seeing this be sort of the sum of all these great parts that are coming together to make something pretty magical happen that thus far I don’t think anyone has been able to accomplish,” said Courtney Holt, Spotify’s head of studios and video, in an interview.

Spotify had 8 million creators on its platform at the end of 2020, and Ek envisions that the company will have as many as 50 million creators by 2025.

Other program details announced Monday include a new unnamed investigative podcast that will analyze cases of police brutality in a partnership with Array, a collective founded by filmmaker Ava DuVernay. The first podcast out of a partnership with DC and Warner Bros. will be called “Batman: Unburied” and will launch later this year.

Spotify also announced a podcast content partnership with AGBO, filmmakers Anthony and Joe Russo’s entertainment company.


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