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Joe Budden Says He’s Splitting From Spotify, Claims Platform ‘Undermined and Undervalued’ Exclusive Podcast

Joe Budden
RW/MediaPunch/IPx

UPDATED: Popular podcast host and cultural commentator Joe Budden said he will leave Spotify after a two-year exclusive run of his “The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory and Mal” on the service, claiming the audio provider is “pillaging” his audience.

In his most recent podcast episode on Wednesday, Aug. 26, Budden spent the better part of three-plus hours deconstructing his deal with the streaming platform, suggesting that he will no longer be on Spotify when the exclusive contract expires in a month — representing about seven more episodes.

“September 23rd, I cannot tell you where this podcast will be,” Budden said. “But as it stands, I can tell you where it will not be, and that is Spotify.”

In a statement provided to Variety on Thursday, a Spotify rep said, “It was our desire to keep Joe Budden on Spotify. As Joe referenced on his show, we made him a considerable offer — one that was significantly larger and many times the value of the existing agreement and reflective of the current market and size of his audience. Unfortunately, we could not come to terms and we respect his wishes to find a new home for his show.”

On his podcast Wednesday, Budden described Spotify’s offer as a “bum-ass deal” that he could not in good conscience co-sign.

The “Love & Hip-Hop” alumnus and host of Revolt’s “State of the Culture” is also a former rapper whose twice-weekly podcast has rated as the No. 1 podcast on Spotify in the past. (It’s currently No. 15 on Spotify’s podcast charts, according to the app.) In recent weeks, Budden has been telling listeners about his unhappiness with the current arrangement, before he announced Wednesday that he’s planning to take the show elsewhere.

“Spotify never cared about this podcast individually,” Budden said in the podcast. “Spotify only cared about our contribution to the platform.” Budden added that his talk show has been “undermined and undervalued,” pointing to a recent deal with Bill Simmons’ The Ringer for $250 million which, he said, was “actively pitting [these signings] against us.” (Spotify has disclosed that it will pay up to about $196 million for The Ringer.)

Budden accused Spotify “pillaging” his audience as a way to build up its broader podcast strategy. “You pillage the audience from the podcast, and you’ve continued to pillage each step of the way without any regard” for the listeners, he said. In addition, Budden compared Spotify’s podcast business to his experience in the music business — where he said artists are typically exploited financially. He also mentioned by name Spotify executives who are no longer with the company, but were instrumental in bringing him to the streaming platform, chief among them: Tuma Basa, who curated Spotify’s popular Rap Caviar playlist and is now an executive at YouTube Music.

“We can’t really talk about no business between us before I know what took place with my brother Tuma,” said Budden. Basa left Spotify in March 2018, prior to Budden’s podcast becoming exclusive to Spotify.

Budden, called “the Howard Stern of hip-hop” by the New York Times, first launched his podcast in early 2015. He brought it exclusively to Spotify under a deal in August 2018 (while the show also is distributed on YouTube). “The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory and Mal” is hosted by Budden, alongside his friends Jamil “Mal” Clay and Rory Farrell. The show focuses on hip-hop news, events and culture but the discussion spans a wide range of other topics including sports, entertainment and their own lives.

At this point, Budden might decide to take his podcast non-exclusive to multiple audio platforms or seek to secure an exclusive pact with a different podcasting network. At the heart of the matter, said Budden, is “wage disparity.”

Still, Budden added: “I don’t wanna come off as angry, upset or bitter because the reality of it is we both hit our goals.”