Today, Spotify published its earnings report for the first quarter of 2022, and lo and behold, despite all the chatter you may have seen urging users to unsubscribe or switch platforms, the audio streaming service is doing just fine.
The platform lost 1.5 million premium subscribers in Russia by choice, as they ceased operations there following the invasion of Ukraine and was steeped in Joe Rogan controversy for the first couple of months of 2022. But even in the face of both of those setbacks, Spotify gained enough total paying subscribers to go from 180 million to 182 million between the end of 2021 and now.
The company also gained 16 million ad-supported (i.e. not premium) monthly active users, for a total increase of 18 million all-around monthly active users — a 19% year over year increase. Spotify’s total revenue also reportedly increased 24% between this year and last.
A few months ago, lots of people (including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell) were up in arms about Joe Rogan, who has an exclusive deal with Spotify, and his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. Detractors were specifically angry that the show spreads misinformation about COVID-19 almost as fast as the virus spreads itself and also at Rogan’s apparent racism.
Although Spotify did remove some particularly egregious episodes of the Experience, calls for the streaming service to remove Rogan from the platform entirely or otherwise censor his podcast were largely ignored, as the company opted to side with the money.
As a result, there were hashtags and posts urging users to delete their Spotify accounts in protest. Apparently though, not enough people fled the platform to impact the company’s bottom line.
Spotify did admit that its net subscriber growth was slightly below projections, but the company said, “after excluding the involuntary churn of approximately 1.5 million [premium] subscribers as a result of our exit from Russia, growth was above expectations,” in its earnings statement to shareholders. The company also added that new subscriber numbers exceeded expectation in Latin America and Europe.
Separately, Joe Rogan also claimed that the controversy surrounding his podcast ended up gaining him listeners. “My subscriptions went up massively, that’s what’s crazy,” said Rogan in a show episode with Douglas Murray, a political commentator beloved by the far right. “During the height of it all, I gained 2 million subscribers,” Rogan added. Spotify did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, unnamed sources said new subscriber numbers to The Joe Rogan Experience have been consistent, and haven’t “spiked due to any particular event.”