India Arie says Spotify exploits artists and Joe Rogan is ‘consciously racist’

A seated woman holding an acoustic guitar and singing into a microphone
India Arie performs at the 2017 Black Girls Rock! Awards in New Jersey.
(Charles Sykes / Invision/Associated Press)
Share via

Neo-soul musician India Arie reflected Monday on her decisions to boycott Spotify and hold Joe Rogan accountable for repeatedly using the N-word on his podcast.

In the latest episode of “The Daily Show,” the singer-songwriter engaged in a thoughtful, 30-minute conversation with host Trevor Noah about Spotify’s treatment of artists, as well as the difference between “conscious racism” and “unconscious racism.”

“I have learned in my life to make room and forgiveness for people who are unconsciously racist because our whole society is built on racist concepts,” Arie told Noah.


“I think that [Joe Rogan] is being consciously racist. ... The fact that he [said the N-word] repeatedly and was conscious and knew — I think that is being racist. And I don’t like even saying that because I’m a sensitive, old soul, and I want to believe the best of people.”

Joe Rogan apologized on Instagram for saying the N-word in the past as Spotify removes early episodes of his show.

Feb. 5, 2022

Earlier this month, Rogan apologized for saying the N-word and making racist remarks on “The Joe Rogan Experience” after Arie posted a video compilation of the podcast host using the racist slur about 20 times. A day prior, Rogan removed approximately 70 episodes of his show from Spotify without explanation.

In his public apology, Rogan insisted he is “not racist” but admitted he “f— up.” He also said his position on using the N-word has changed since those episodes aired — in an attempt to educate “anybody that doesn’t realize how offensive that word could be coming out of a white person’s mouth, in context or out of context.”

In a stand-up set Tuesday, podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan weighed in on the controversy that has entangled him and Spotify over the past few weeks.

Feb. 9, 2022

“When I first heard his apology, my instinct is to go, ‘He tried,’” Arie said on “The Daily Show.”

“But when I go deeper and ask myself what I really think ... what I really think is that he was being consciously racist. And it makes me wonder what he talks like behind closed doors.”

A representative for Rogan did not respond Tuesday to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment.


Warning: The video below contains profanity.

Despite recently receiving direct messages on social media teeming with racist and misogynistic insults from Rogan supporters, Arie said she doesn’t consider the stand-up comic her “mortal enemy.” She did, however, encourage him to invite “some of our greatest Black female thinkers around race on his show to have those messy conversations.”

Ultimately, though, Arie reiterated that her main issue with Spotify is “its treatment of artists’ rights.” On “The Daily Show,” Arie accused the streaming giant of giving the average artist .003% to .005% — “a fraction of a penny” — of the profits it makes for streaming their music.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told employees Wednesday that the company is a platform for Joe Rogan, not Rogan’s publisher, setting a lower bar for content moderation.

Feb. 2, 2022

Spotify claims to generate “more money for rights holders” — a.k.a. any record label, songwriter, artist, etc., who owns the rights to a piece of music — “than any other streaming service.” The company also takes credit for growing artists’ fan base via exposure and, by extension, increasing their ticket and merchandise sales.

“Still, we understand that artists find it useful to calculate an effective ‘per stream’ rate or, in other words, a revenue-to-streams ratio — dividing the total size of the royalty pool on Spotify (the numerator) by the total number of music streams on Spotify (the denominator),” Spotify’s FAQ page reads.


“There are a number of factors that contribute to that ratio looking small, which we understand can seem problematic. We don’t believe it is; we are confident our model is maximizing revenue for everyone.”

Graham Nash and India Arie are removing their music from Spotify after Neil Young left the platform because of COVID disinformation and Joe Rogan.

Feb. 1, 2022

Last month, Arie became one of the first entertainment figures to join Neil Young’s protest against Spotify. As of Monday, she was “still in a fight” to remove her catalog from the platform, which she dubbed “the biggest player” and “the lowest payer” in the streaming game.

“Asking for my music to be pulled from Spotify in protest doesn’t actually serve me,” Arie continued.

“Because now my music ... won’t be heard on the biggest streaming platform. But I did it in protest because ... I felt like I was being disrespected. ... I thought the only way to affirm my dignity and my integrity is to be honest about how I feel.”