Spotify subscribers rise to 182 million despite controversy over Joe Rogan

Spotify’s latest revenue release suggests that the audio streaming service’s subscriber count hasn’t had much, if any, impact from the controversies surrounding its Joe Rogan podcast just a few months ago.

In the quarter ended March 31, Spotify says its premium subscribers increased 15 percent year-over-year to 182 million, compared to 180 million in the previous quarter. Monthly active users rose 19 percent year-over-year to 422 million, from 406 million at the end of last year. For context, in the previous quarter, premium subscribers were up 16 percent year-over-year, while monthly active users were up 18 percent.

Spotify had previously expected to reach 183 million premium subscribers this quarter, but slightly missed this target by withdrawing from the Russian market. “Excluding the impact of our departure from Russia, subscriber growth exceeded expectations,” the company said in its press release.

Spotify’s subscriber growth does not appear to have slowed appreciably as a result of the controversy over Joe Rogan, which engulfed the company this financial quarter. The controversy started when high-profile artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell took their music off the platform after saying that Joe Rogan was using his Spotify podcast to spread misinformation about vaccines. Bloomberg noted that #SpotifyDeleted was quickly trending on Twitter as users pledged to stop using the service.

Rogan recently revealed that he has actually gained subscribers as a result of the controversy. “It’s interesting, my subscriptions have skyrocketed — that’s what’s crazy,” Rogan said in a recent episode. “At the height of it all, I got 2 million subscribers.”

Spotify is widely regarded as the world’s largest audio streaming service. Competitors such as Amazon Music and Apple Music do not regularly release subscriber numbers, but the latest public figures collected by Music Ally saw Apple Music with 60 million subscribers and Amazon Music with 55 million.

Spotify announced in late March that it would discontinue its services in Russia, a few days before the end of the financial quarter. In a statement, the company cited “recently passed legislation” as the reason for the suspension; a clear reference to a Russian law passed in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine that punishes the spread of “fake news” with up to 15 years in prison. Spotify announced the suspension towards the end of the financial quarter and said it expected the services to be phased out completely in April. It reports that it has already seen 1.5 million disconnects due to a downsizing and expects 600,000 more by April for a total of more than 2 million.

Spotify only recently launched its services in Russia, later calling it its “most successful new market launch to date”.

Furthermore, Spotify’s average revenue per user declined slightly from €4.40 (about $4.66) for premium subscribers last quarter to €4.38 this quarter (about $4.65), although the year-over-year increased by 6 percent. In total, the company made a profit of €131 million this quarter. Spotify generally prioritizes subscriber growth over quarterly earnings and revenue, making quarterly earnings like this relatively uncommon.

This quarter marked a year since Spotify announced a new higher-quality streaming tier called Spotify HiFi, which would provide CD-quality lossless streaming. Despite planning to launch HiFi before the end of the year, it is still not available. Meanwhile, the world’s second largest music streaming service, Apple Music, has announced and launched its own lossless music streaming after the announcement of Spotify, while Amazon stopped charging additional lossless fees on its service.

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