Obama’s production company won’t renew deal with Spotify
Higher Ground, the Obamas’ production company, and Spotify will not renew their exclusive partnership, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Higher Ground has produced a number of exclusive shows distributed on the streaming platform since partnering with Spotify in 2019.
These include “The Michelle Obama Podcast” and “Renegades: Born in the USA”, featuring a discussion between former President Obama and Bruce Springsteen. “The Michelle Obama Podcast” was the fourth most popular podcast worldwide on Spotify in 2020.
But Spotify chose not to make a bid to renew the deal, which runs until October, said sources familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.
The Obamas were seeking a deal in which Higher Ground podcasts would be widely available and not exclusive to one platform, the sources said.
Higher Ground has had conversations with other rival podcast companies, including Amazon’s Audible and iHeartMedia, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news.
Other podcasts that had exclusive deals with Spotify continued to make their podcasts widely available later. For example, “Last Podcast on the Left” is no longer exclusive to Spotify, but is still available on the platform.
More and more podcasters want to be widely available on multiple platforms “because the distribution network is much bigger and they want to go beyond Spotify’s audience,” said Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation. Research, based in Palo Alto.
Representatives for Spotify and Higher Ground declined to comment.
Spotify has signed a deal with the Obamas as part of the company’s ambitious foray into podcasting. The Swedish music streaming giant also has exclusive deals with other A-listers such as Joe Rogan and Meghan Markle’s Prince Harry and Archewell.
When the Higher Ground-Spotify deal was announced, Michelle Obama said she was thrilled “to have the opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced, and through Spotify, we can share these stories with the world”.
But there were creative tensions with Spotify over where the Obamas would fit in podcasts, versus other lesser-known voices, sources said.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at consulting firm Enderle Group, said he believes the Obamas will be able to generate strong demand for their podcasts.
“They’re incredibly savvy when it comes to their social media presence, and wherever they go, they’ll undoubtedly be a creator king for any service that takes them,” Enderle said.
Spotify has quickly become a major podcast hub, but not without controversy.
Earlier this year, some musicians, including rocker Neil Young, boycotted the streaming service over concerns about misinformation and racially insensitive language on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” a popular exclusive podcast on Spotify.
The protest prompted Spotify to release its content moderation policies and respond to what Rogan said on its podcast. Rogan apologized for using the N-word.