Joe Budden is ending his exclusive deal with Spotify in a very public way as the podcaster, which has ponied up hundreds of millions of dollars to expand in the business, is now being accused of putting a lowball offer on the table. The one-time rapper turned podcast host used his latest episode to announce that his arrangement with the company ends next month, after which he will become a free agent. “I cannot tell you where this podcast will be. But as it stands, I can tell you where it will not be, and that is Spotify,” said Budden.
The Joe Budden Podcast debuted five years ago with Budden and co-hosts Jamil “Mal” Clay and Rory Farrell. The show offers their take on news, culture and current events. In 2018 Budden signed a two-year deal giving Spotify exclusive distribution rights. It has grown into one of the most listened-to podcasts, ranking in the top ten, according to the streamer’s latest show rankings. But as Spotify has spent hundreds of millions of dollars growing its podcast business, including a reported $100 million deal for the rights to The Joe Rogan Experience, it seems Budden has concluded that Spotify has underpriced what it should pay him.
“If I were to accept that bum-ass deal that Spotify put in front of me, I would not be able to sleep at night. I don’t care how much money it is,” said Budden. “We’ve been in a deal that is vastly undervalued and undermined for the good course of a year and a half — just watching everybody get paid.”
Spotify on Thursday seemed resigned that it will not be able reach a new deal with Budden. “It was our desire to keep Joe Budden on Spotify,” a company rep said. “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.”
Budden seemed most upset about Spotify’s recent deal to buy The Ringer from Bill Simmons for $200 million. “I’m not counting anyone else’s money because they’ve earned it along their journey, of course, but what I am doing is trying to figure out the appropriate value to the asset that I own,” Budden said. “If you paid a quarter-billion dollars for a company and they came in and still didn’t budge me out of number one or perform anywhere near us -- we have to account for it.”
Budden told listeners he could not discuss specific details, citing non-disclosure agreements. But he did say he expected to receive a $500,000 bonus after his podcast’s first year on Spotify, but one was never paid. “So when we don’t get a bonus in September a year after being number one, I say, ‘What happened?’ And they give me a bunch of bullshit about the difference between a start, a stream, a unique start, and however else you calculate some shit,” he said. “I come from the music business. That is eerily similar to fifteen hundred streams make a sale.”
The threat could still be a negotiating tactic, not unlike the public complaints Howard Stern has used to secure hundreds of millions of dollars from SiriusXM during the past decade. The New York Times even once referred to Budden as “the Howard Stern of hip-hop.”
Spotify is signaling it hopes to keep Budden within its ranks. Company reps have said negotiations with Budden are still ongoing.