The Distributor’s Dilemma

If we don’t disentangle the roles of distributor and publisher, we’ll spend the rest of our lives talking about Joe Rogan

Nick Hilton
OneZero
Published in
11 min readFeb 1, 2022

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Spotify has a little Joe Rogan-shaped problem

By now you will all have heard about Spotify’s Joe Rogan-shaped problem. In a nutshell, Rogan has been using his Spotify exclusive show, The Joe Rogan Experience, to entertain largely unchallenged anti-vaxx and vaccine-skeptic rhetoric. It prompted music legends Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to try and get their music removed from the platform and has resulted in Rogan making a half-hearted pledge to do his “best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view”. The story, however, has not ended.

The problem, as I see it, is one that is going to dominate digital media and media tech in the coming years. It is a fundamental battle between the (possibly irreconcilable) roles of distributor and publisher. Let me explain, and try to get to the root of this issue.

Spotify was, is, and always will be a distributor. At its most fundamental level, it is a mechanism for disseminating music — a remit that, in recent years, has been broadened to encapsulate all audio. And Spotify has, for some time, been market-dominant in this space, powered by VC cash and a step ahead of…

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Nick Hilton
OneZero

Writer. Media entrepreneur. London. Interested in technology and the media. Co-founder podotpods.com Email: nick@podotpods.com.