Spotify is the latest brand to contend with cancel culture. Over the last few days, the company made marginal concessions to address concerns (and boycotts) about the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform: On Sunday, Spotify published its content moderation rules and is planning to add disclaimers to any podcast episode that discusses COVID-19. On Monday, Joe Rogan apologized — promising to research the facts before he discusses “controversial topics” on his show. Still, public calls to #DeleteSpotify continue.
Some Consumers Will Delete Spotify, But Most Will Stick Around — For Now
Forrester conducted a quick “pulse check” poll of 657 adults today in its ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community (MROC) across the US, Canada, and the UK* to gauge their possible intentions with Spotify in light of the Joe Rogan debacle. The results of the poll indicate that:
- 446 don’t use Spotify.
- 114 use Spotify and have no intention of canceling their subscription.
- 40 use Spotify and have already or will be canceling their subscription.
- 18 use Spotify and thought about canceling their subscription, but Spotify’s features (personalized music, playlists, etc.) are too important to them.
- 39 use Spotify and would only cancel if more artists they like pull their music.
*Note: This poll was administered to a sample of 657 online consumers in the US, UK, and Canada in Forrester’s qualitative ConsumerVoices online community. This data is not weighted to be representative of total country populations.
When companies in the past have taken hits from cancel culture, most have rebounded. In 2017, Uber reported in its S-1 that “hundreds of thousands” of its users deleted their accounts as a result of the #DeleteUber campaign. Part of the reason was that switching from Uber to its competition (Lyft) is a relatively low lift. But these conditions aren’t necessarily the same with Spotify.
Consumer Boycotts Build Quickly, But They Lose Steam Fast
Our recent report on cancel culture concluded that while cancel culture is loud, for most brands, it’s just noise. Forrester’s September 2021 Consumer Energy Index And Retail Pulse Survey finds that only about a third of online adults (32% US and 36% UK) say that they would actually follow through with boycotting a brand. That’s because of convenience. Consumers don’t follow through because:
- The brand is embedded in their life (32% US and 31% UK).
- It’s difficult to find a replacement brand (33% US and 29% UK).
It’s hard to untether a brand that’s embedded into one’s daily routines. Features such as Spotify’s personalized recommendations, social graph, and year-end wrapped features make the platform sticky. More so, it’s even harder to part ways with years of manually curated playlists (and third-party migration tools add friction to follow-through). This gives Spotify additional resilience to mitigate cancel culture’s impact.
An Advertiser Boycott Will Have Little To No Impact On Spotify
The 2020 advertiser boycotts on Facebook had little effect on the platform’s behaviors and no negative impact to its bottom line, despite the fact that advertising accounts for 97% of Facebook’s revenue. On the contrary, only 13% of Spotify’s revenue comes from ads. The rest (87%) is generated through its premium subscriptions.
While ads power Facebook, talent powers Spotify. The case can be made that Spotify should be accountable for the talent they license and promote, just like Facebook should be accountable for the content they get paid to advertise. And marketers, as brand stewards, should be accountable for guiding their media buys away from misinformation and toward content and platforms that align with their brands’ standards and values.