Spotify Made a Diversity Fund to Make Up for Joe Rogan, Barely Spent Any of It

Do we all remember that time when Spotify created a $100 million diversity fund to make up for paying Joe Rogan? According to new reporting from Bloomberg, the money has barely been touched.

Early last year, Spotify was in hot water over its deal with Rogan. The megawatt podcaster’s transphobic on-air comments made some employees uncomfortable, and as Bloomberg notes, a video began circulating in which Rogan used the “N”-word multiple times. Last January, 270 physicians and scientists sent Spotify an open letter calling for a misinformation policy thanks to Rogan’s comments about the COVID-19 pandemic; one of them called him a “menace to public health.”

Bloomberg News reports that one year into the diversity fund’s existence, less than 10 percent of the money has been spent. Sources told Bloomberg that hiring was slow to start, and that since then the initiative has “suffered from shifting priorities.” One year in, Bloomberg News’ sources said that clear structures remain missing to vet and approve various pitched projects; the report cites an internal memo indicating that this year’s priorities remain undetermined, and a 2023 budget is still not final.

In an emailed comment to Bloomberg, a Spotify representative declined to cite specific spending numbers. They said the fund has supported efforts including Glow (Spotify’s global equity program for LGBTQ musicians) and Nailing It (a Spotify podcast whose hosts—Priscilla Anyabu, Wunmi Bello,and Adesayo Talabi—are all Black women). The representative also noted that Spotify this week announced its further collaboration with Spelman College, a private, historically Black women’s college. As Bloomberg News notes, however, some projects listed in an internal memo as backed by the effort predate the fund itself.

The representative wrote to Bloomberg News: “The Spotify Creator Equity Fund is dedicated to a variety of initiatives that help elevate and support an inclusive and diverse portfolio of artists and creators on the platform… We are able to empower and uplift underrepresented voices around the world.”

We’re guessing that Neil Young—who had his music removed from the service last year in an “it’s him or me”-style stand-off with Spotify last year—is still feeling pretty good about his decision.

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