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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54 Responses to “THR: It’s ‘very difficult to get anything done at Spotify’ & there’s isn’t ‘flexibility’”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    Well this seems too logical and like it makes too much sense for the british press to pick up on it, lol. So it sounds like the Sussexes were already looking to leave Spotify, Spotify was okay with that because they’re looking to change how they handle/pay exclusive contracts anyway, and there’s a shift in the podcasting world in general away from those big contracts.

    I wonder if the next podcast series from them will just be available across all platforms and maybe they’ll have more control over the advertisers etc.

    • VivaLasVirgos says:

      Yep. The minute I read Bill Simmons saying that he was always on the phone with Harry I thought, what were you guys talking about? Were you on the phone trying to convince Harry to do, say, a Royal type podcast. What we’re he and “dumb” Harry talking about for hours?

    • MsIam says:

      So why couldn’t Bill Simmons be a grown-up about it and not trash talk the Sussexes when both sides were looking at options? Why act like a jilted lover? May the karma train make a quick pit stop by Spotify soon. They deserve it for having an oaf like Simmons on board.

      • Becks1 says:

        I think he was pissed that Spotify didn’t get what he thought it should get out of the deal. I agree with others who have said that spotify probably wanted more dirt on the royals, more talk about the royal family, etc. Also it sounds like he and Harry may have butted heads in more ways than one and he is probably still bitter over that.

      • Christina says:

        Simmons seemed to think he’d get to talk Harry into something more gossipy and controversial, like Joe Rogan does. Harry is not an entertainer. He is a military veteran who works on veterans issues. That’s what he wants to talk about. That and how media works for and against truth. That is pretty boring to someone like Simmons. I hope he releases the audio of that conversation so that people can see what Simmons wanted vs what Harry wanted to do. He’s talking so much crap and “reporting” a lot like the British press: Harry is “dumb” for not doing what he is told to make money for a media organization.

        Bad press makes bank. Harry is a reluctant public figure from a high profile family, not James Cordon or Joe Rogan. And Megan is a pro, so she was able to deliver, but Simmons probably hated her podcast seeing that he isn’t praising her for it. He comes off as a shallow, sexist douche bag.

      • BlueNailsBetty says:

        Bill Simmonds is the very definition of toxic masculinity. He probably wanted Harry to “bro up” and be the British version of Roe Jogan. Harry, on the other hand, wants to dismantle toxic masculinity and encourage men (especially veterans) to get help to become more balanced mentally and physically.

        They were never going to agree.

      • Ginger says:

        Simmons is definitely mad Harry and Meghan left. It sounds like Harry was going to do a podcast and that’s what him and Simmons were talking about. I remember there were talks of Harry releasing a podcast this year. They probably wanted a royal gossip podcast and Harry said no. Spotify and Simmons look REALLY bad and unprofessional in all of this.

    • Bee says:

      THR is a way, way more reputable source than a lot of what gets covered here. (Variety is mostly brief little press release rehashes, but THR knows what time it is.) THR is the real deal. I’ve been reading it for years.

      There is a big shift happening in the industry and it’s been going on for quite a while. All the streamers (Netflix especially) made BANK when everyone was stuck at home with nothing to do. Of course that wasn’t going to last forever. Maybe they thought it would.

      Spotify is in bed with Rogan and that puts a lot of people off. And I do believe people had tons of ideas and it was hard to get things greenlit, especially as the world shifted back to doing things. Licensing has always been key, and being on multiple platforms has so many benefits. Also this Simmons dude sounds like an ass.

      I’ll take anything from Hollywood Reporter over literally any British publication, even the Guardian.

      The big question with M&H remains “what will they do next?” and we will just have to wait and see!

    • Nic919 says:

      I think the fact that Variety and THR are providing more context and follow up is the result of WME making sure the full story is out there and not just the slanted version.

      • Bren says:

        That’s the power of having good representation. If not for adding more context and clarification of the situation, the British tabloids would write lies about the Sussexes leaving Spotify for months on end.

  2. Caribbean says:

    A black person dared to say she was abused by rich white people so she must further abused, be made pòor, homeless, and repentant by whatever cost necessary.

    • Eowyn says:

      There are also doing this to stop/threaten any person that might want to be as *bold*.
      Harry and Meghan’s documentary talked about it.
      Not many will/can have powerful friends willing to help them.

      • Bee says:

        This is why it’s called systemic racism. Because it is a whole system designed to keep some people (let’s be real – most people) down. So the Old White Rich Mens can continue to run the world, and the rest of the white men can still lord it over everyone else, despite that they are also mostly disenfranchised. It’s quite the racket!

    • KFG says:

      Exactly!! Again, Meghan asserting her independence and control over her talent is a slap in the face to yt supremacy, bc how dare she not grovel and tap dance for their money and be grateful to do so! I’m glad they and the other talents are leaving Spotify. Even wondery has been hinting that they aren’t happy with the representation.

  3. SarahCS says:

    I have no idea how the commercial side works but give me multi-platform every day. I don’t use Spotify anymore at all and find it easiest listening to podcasts through the app on my iphone so I hear what I can get hold of there. I’m sick of tv making me pay multiple times and constantly switch between platforms.

    • Mary Pester says:

      I’m so sick of all the media bullsht surrounding this and the constant blame of Megan, especially that no mark who called them grifters. The basic facts are simple, the Spotify business model as it was wasn’t working because they over extended themselves. They failed to take into account the plethora of streaming channels that were coming down the road at them. They wanted the shock jocks not the well thought out podcasts that raise important issues and discussion. Just look at who is still there, that says it all, along with the fact that they laid of hundreds of staff

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Agreed. I listen to tons of podcasts & was annoyed at having to download Spotify just to listen to Archetypes (though I loved the pod). Multi-platform is much more appealing to me as a consumer.

  4. Snuffles says:

    I’m very curious and excited to see what Meghan and WME are cooking up. As much as the British press will spin this as a negative, these kind of business moves and upheavals happen all the time.

  5. JCallas says:

    I don’t think Harry is interested in creating content. He seems to be happy with his job and charity work.

    • MF says:

      Agree with this. I bet once BetterUp goes public, Harry will get out of that game and focus on running Invictus and maybe launch other similar organizations.

      Meghan seems like the one who’s interested in creating content, which makes sense given her background in entertainment. I don’t see her going back to acting but I can see her becoming a successful movie producer.

    • Snuffles says:

      Well, there is a reason that only Meghan signed with WME. That said, I don’t think Harry will retreat from being public. He will continue to be front and center for his causes and organizations. Maybe give the occasional paid speech.

      But, again, I am SO curious for what Meghan and WME has planned. She’s clearly going to be doing more of her own thing and I can’t wait!

  6. MrsCope says:

    Yes @becks all off what you said is spot on. The nature of reporting of everything around H+M is like a blockbuster thriller, full of intrigue and backstabbing. When in reality it is all business. Things end, things shift and it all “feels” so much more dramatic because of the machine driving the “news.” I deleted my data and told Spotify to lose my number yesterday and I’ve never been a fan of platform-specific podcasts. Team “stream wherever you listen to your podcasts.” Besides Archetypes, I just listen to everything through Google Podcasts…

    • Caribbean says:

      I notice that some white people literally will not criticize their own but is so ready to criticize a black person and black people just fall into place and do the same (looking at you SAS,ETC)

      Black people are clean, elegant, hard working and smart, but are being conned into believing something else and act on the con.

  7. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Netflix and the major Hollywood studio streamers will be doing the same. Ryan Murphy is leaving Netflix because Netflix thought throwing stupid money at talent was going to draw more subscribers to their stupid and broken business model, but now they can’t afford the monster they created. Now they have to retreat and regroup and add an ad-tier because they bungled their metrics so much. Spotify is the same. Licensing your content to other platforms is a HUGE money-maker, but everyone tried to follow Netflix’s example to try to price others out of the competition. Big fat failures, all of them. None of them turns a profit and their investors are tired of it. Stupid, stupid TV and audio streamers.

    • Glamarazzi says:

      You got it in one. Streaming is a loser. The studios & networks found this out the hard way. Licensing is where the money is. Check out this chilling Vulture article if you want the bigger picture. It’s not just about H&M.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        @Glamarazzi – Thank you for posting the link. The article is an excellent read.

      • Bee says:

        Thanks, Glamarazzi, for the pointer to that excellent (but, yes, chilling) article. It explains it all very well. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of at least television is going back to “mainstream” stuff and the platinum age is ending, content wise. Probably the same for pods, altho pods will always be more independent as they cost less to produce. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I hope we don’t go back to network style tv.

    • Nic919 says:

      Months ago I recall Kara Swisher mentioning on her podcast that Spotify had overpaid on their deals and she said this would lead to contracts having to be ended. She didn’t specifically mention the Sussexes because Spotify had done this with many high profile figures, not just them.

    • Amy Bee says:

      It’s being reported that Murphy is leaving Netflix for Disney so he still has faith in streaming services.

  8. Lili says:

    I’m not sure whats going on in the Podcast world, Yesterday Trevor Noah signed on with Spotify he was pictured with the Daniel the CEO, so they got their Flagship POC, is he going to go head to head with Joe rogan ? I think the Archtypes could probably translate into a TV show i think that could be interesting, and lays to bed all those claiming to have “created” or interviewed guests and dubbing Meghans Voice. Its a shame that the aftermath of the spotify deal has turned messy.

    • MsIam says:

      No one who worked on the show is claiming that, in fact they are saying the opposite. Daily Fail drivel.

    • kirk says:

      According to Variety, “While Noah’s podcast will be a “Spotify original,” it will not be exclusive to the streamer: The show will be available to listen to across numerous platforms.”

      I think the Spotify ‘Exclusive’ era is mostly over. Except for ppl like Joe Rogan (who creates a ton of alternately mediocre and enraging content). I’ve read about several people who wanted to do podcasts, then got locked into exclusive distribution contracts at Spotify, then get ignored as they didn’t produce the desired audiences – recall that back in 2019 Spotify was promising to be THE BIGGEST GO-TO PODCAST PLATORM EVER, then proceeded to try to corner it with exclusives. Obviously they’re having a rethink about that business strategy. I mean, who coulda guessed that competitors like Apple, iHeart Radio, Stitcher (Sirius XM), not to mention multiple boutique podcast producers, w/b competent enough to give Spotify a run for the money?

  9. Harla A Brazen Hussy says:

    I would love for Harry to partner with Armed Services Radio and create podcasts related to military service and mental health.

    • Janey says:

      I literally just went “oooh, that’s a good idea” out loud in my office but I styled it out. But that is a very good idea.

  10. B says:

    I think the Sussexes are a team and as such they divide and conquer. They both work on the philanthropic arm of Archewell and support their causes and charities and even encourage their partner organizations to help each other. They both also work together on their Netflix documentaries

    Individually Harry is CIO of BetterUp, Founder of Invictus, and works with Africa Parks. Its a full plate and doesn’t include past work like he’s memoir Spare and The Me You Can’t See with Oprah.

    Meghan took a bit of a back seat because she was having babies and healing. Despite moving at a slower pace she still had an record breaking children’s book, podcast and partnered with Cuyana to donate 500 handbags to her charity Smartworks. She signed Archewell and herself with WME because I believe she will be taking point on the Archewell Audio and Archewell Productions front. She has the experience in the business and has kept obligations deliberately light.

    Harry and Meghan work together on several projects and each have their own areas of expertise. By working together and dividing and conquering they take a bigger piece of the pie and still have time to be loving involved parents and humans.

  11. Chantal says:

    This article is far too logical to be of any interest to the BM. And as with many things in the entertainment industry, Spotify will have to adapt in order to survive. The lack of flexibility explains why they’re in this predicament. Indecision and/or refusing to greenlight projects will certainly damage your business and your brand. I think Spotify is in serious trouble.

  12. Lark says:

    Meghan said a throwaway line in her October 2022 Variety interview that always seemed random and out of place to me: “It’s interesting. My husband has never worked in this industry before.”

    Harry has multiple long-term passion projects with Invictus, Betterup, Travalyst, Sentebale, media reform, veteran interests, mental health advocacy, etc… maybe he focuses more there? But it would be such a loss to have no formal Harry content; he’s so mesmerizing when he speaks + Me You Can’t See was such a hit.

    Pure speculation: WME signing specifically Meghan could simply be about the division of labor in their work partnership according to skill & interest. Meghan has a 20+ year career in the entertainment industry. She knows how to get things done in that world and probably enjoys the creative process. She knows how the sausage is made. So perhaps she’ll handle more of the behind-the-scenes production stuff in the future? Even if Harry the Charmer sometimes shows up on camera or on audio.

  13. Chaine says:

    I think Harry didn’t sign with the agent because at the heart of it Harry is not a performer or an entertainment talent. He’s not going to go be a talk show host or become a spokesperson for designer cologne or try for a role in the next big Mindy Kaling sitcom. He did his memoir, and maybe at some point, probably after his dad dies he will do another memoir, but I just don’t see him doing a lot of things for which he needs an agent like Meghan does.

  14. Hail says:

    I hope the Sussexes aren’t putting too much pressure on themselves to sign another exclusive contract. They should transform the Archewell website into a streaming/news website where you can continue to get updates about their work/foundation and also stream their production/audio content.

  15. Amy Bee says:

    Sounds like logical to me and it makes sense that Harry and Meghan would want to leave.

  16. Soosoo says:

    Why is it so inappropriate to say that the Sussexes overextended themselves? This is not just a Spotify issue.

    There is likely some truth in that Spotify was difficult in greenlighting content. However, the Sussexes had Archetypes greenlit and all we got was 12 episodes. There is no indication that this was supposed to be a limited series. For what it’s worth, they had a contract for 2.5 years, let’s say they proposed lots of ideas for Spotify, but only one idea was approved- the output of the approved podcast was minimal at best.

    We’re seeing this with other arms of their business. Netflix has minimal content produced, nothing in the trade papers about new productions, Archwell website sucks and don’t hear a peep of what it’s up to. I’m really hoping WME turns this around for them, when the Sussexes are on, it can be pretty decent.

    I think the criticism in their work product and lack thereof is valid. However, this criticism should not be couched in disparaging remarks made about them personally.

    • MsIam says:

      See, this is why no one takes criticism like this seriously. Its always couched in hyperbole. If Meghan is working on season two of Archetypes and Spotify doesn’t want to move forward, then how is it her fault? It doesn’t mean she’s “overextended” it means they didn’t want what she was selling or she didn’t want what Spotify was offering. Again, with Netflix they cancelled one of Archewell’s projects while in preproduction. How is that the Sussexes fault? This has nothing to do with their productivity.

    • Kelsey says:

      I think this is fair assessment and looking at what they’ve dealt with they’ve done a lot outside of just these 2 deals. I hope they are able to do more as they find they’re footing or trust people around them to help produce more content for them. I noticed the Obama’s don’t have much content that involves them but they’ve bought a lot of projects that other people have done.
      I think Meghan will for sure be the main producer/content creator while I could see Harry focusing more on charitable aspects.

  17. tamsin says:

    I think both Netflix and Spotify expected the Sussexes to churn out stuff constantly, even if just to lend their name to it. Perhaps their output seems paltry, but at least they produced two popular hits. The publisher got the best deal though- Harry’s book was an instant hit and earnings are obvious for all to see.

    • MsIam says:

      Which is crazy because who churns out stuff fast like that other than reality TV? When the deals were announced, there was no mention of anything like that. It was announced as actual scripted programming. This is the problem with these platforms as content creators too, they want to call all the shots. Better to find your own investors if you can.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        There are some podcasts that air new content daily. Also, there are many podcasts that air new content weekly for at least 40 weeks a year.

        I think it was a mutual decision as Spotify wanted more quantity and the Sussexes wanted quality.

      • MsIam says:

        I was referring to Netflix, not Spotify.

  18. Lizzie says:

    I read a bit about the big mouth at Spotify. It seems he was fired from ESPN partly because he was disrespectful to coworkers. Gee, I wonder which ones. I bet he hates having women podcasters and the subject matter of Archetypes was probably most galling. Why else not have a second season of a number 1 rated, award-winning podcast?

  19. I stopped listening to Spotify when Joni and Graham left. Spotify would rather have that Clown (Joe Rogan) talk about unsubstantiated COVID 19 “cures” and giving those other Clowns – Musk and RFK Jr., time on the air for “Conspiracy Theories”. Megan and Harry need to go somewhere else. Shame on Spotify!

  20. Jeremy says:

    Joe Rogan, NOW THERE is a grifter.

  21. blunt talker says:

    I hope Harry does a podcast about Invictus-Maybe something on mental health-I really would love to see something about African parks or something on Senteble dealing with HIV-Harry could discuss how he got involved-the progress these organization have made-what he wants to improve for his charity works-I now understand what Spotify wanted-constant content every week but the type of content they wanted them to do-somebody might make a documentary or movie about Spare with Harry as executive producer-or make a documentary about the wonderful things he learned and observed during his many visits to Africa. Meghan will probably stick to topics which interests her -dealing with female empowerment.

  22. Moi Ra says:

    I always felt they took unfair deal (low money/exclusive to Spotify), I said this on a squaddie YT channel and people came for me then. Restricting their work to only spotify was a big mistake (again considering the low *if true*20Mil deal). Thankfully with WME that is about to be rectified. I just cancelled my subscription. It was useless anyways because I don’t listen to music from there and mainly used it for Archwell then later crime podcasts(which have ads pre-recorded inside episodes so its pointless to have ad-free subscription). That Simmons guy looked rattled, he knows he lost their biggest pullers of young adult streamers. I suspect more will be announcing leaving the platform and Trevor might ditch them too after one season.