bitchy | THR: It’s ‘very difficult to get anything done at Spotify’ & there’s isn’t ‘flexibility’

One of the craziest parts about watching the Sussexes’ Spotify “fallout” is how many people and how many media outlets put the entire thing on the Duchess of Sussex alone. Like, Meghan actually produced a wildly popular podcast series, a thoughtful series which took a lot of time and effort. I’m sure Prince Harry had ideas for pods, and maybe we’ll never know what ideas were rejected by Spotify, but again, Harry didn’t produce an award-winning, attention-grabbing podcast. Meghan did.

As the dust settles from the Spotify mess, there are a lot of people (haters) attacking the Sussexes and of course, those people are just trying to get their five minutes in the sun. I’m watching how the trade papers are reporting the situation though. Days ago, Variety spoke to a “source familiar with the situation” who claimed that Harry and Meghan “have wanted to move away from exclusive Spotify distribution to find a new home for their audio projects.” In turn, Spotify sources claimed to Variety that Spotify ending their deal with the Sussexes is “unrelated to the podcast group’s restructuring.” Sounds like there was a lot of negative energy in both directions. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter dropped some new analysis about all of this. Some highlights:

The WSJ’s exclusive report fast-tracked the end: The Journal story is believed to have ultimately fast-tracked the end of the Spotify-Archewell Relationship, which had still been in place prior to the story’s publication but concluded with a carefully worded joint statement released that evening announcing the two parties had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

Bill Simmons & what Spotify got wrong: But Spotify’s Bill Simmons, who leads podcast monetization for the audio company, called into question how amicable the split was when he labeled Markle and Prince Harry “f–king grifters” during a June 16 episode of his eponymous podcast. That isn’t to say Spotify is entirely blameless in the breakdown of the relationship. One dealmaker notes to The Hollywood Reporter it is “very difficult to get anything done at Spotify” and that there isn’t much “flexibility with these big tentpole deals.”

Spotify podcasting is in flux: Other high-profile talent have also ended deals without renewal, including Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Higher Ground decamped for Audible, and Esther Perel, who left for Vox Media. Jemele Hill, whose show Jemele Hill Is Unbothered had been exclusive to Spotify since 2019, is also expected to leave after her contract ends this summer. The podcasting division at Spotify has undergone major leadership upheaval with the recent departures of former chief content and ad business officer Dawn Ostroff and top podcast partnership executive Max Cutler. Significant layoffs have impacted the podcast division this year, with the most recent caused by the merger of in-house studios Gimlet and Parcast into one centralized entity, Spotify Studios, despite the audio company’s pricey acquisitions of the two.

The Sussexes won’t receive a full payout: Having only released 12 episodes of Archetypes and one holiday special during their entire time with Spotify, the Sussexes aren’t set to receive the full payout of their reported $20 million Spotify deal. (It’s unclear how many episodes they had to hit to get that pay figure, though typical Spotify exclusive deals require multiple series or multiple episodes of a show released on a regular basis, such as with a weekly show.)

Archewell retains the rights to Archetypes: Archetypes could still live on elsewhere, however, as Archewell does retain the rights to Markle’s show and now can openly shop around the podcast to other platforms. But wherever Archewell Audio does go next, they will be negotiating at a time when major podcast publishers become wary of expensive talent deals, especially during a slower market. Though some companies, most notably Amazon’s Wondery, have experimented with exclusive windowing deals, most platforms have largely agreed that forking over the millions needed for an exclusive deal and losing out on additional listenership isn’t a smart choice.

[From THR]

“Most platforms have largely agreed that forking over the millions needed for an exclusive deal and losing out on additional listenership isn’t a smart choice.” This is interesting because it’s a shift from the current model of platform-exclusivity (for the big pods). Is the future of podcasting multiplatform-availability, with only a handful of “special talents” locked in with exclusive contracts? Probably. Now, do I think that’s the future for Archewell Audio, or do I think that they’ll look to go exclusive on another platform? I don’t know. But the timing of Meghan signing on WME is looking more and more significant, isn’t it? As in, she was already making plans for the end of the Spotify and Netflix contracts and looking for what’s next. I also wonder if it’s significant that only Meghan signed with WME – perhaps the future of Archewell Audio is just Meghan-specific podcasts and no pods from Harry?

Photos courtesy of Spotify, Cover Images, Backgrid.

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