The chief executive of Spotify has addressed the company’s axed deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, almost four months after it made headlines around the world.
The Sussex arrangement, estimated to be worth somewhere between $29 million and $37 million AUD, was declared officially over by “mutual” agreement in a joint statement from Spotify and Harry and Meghan’s company, Archewell Audio, in June.
The Duchess of Sussex had released just one 12-episode season of Archetypes, which featured several of her celebrity friends and looked to dissect the labels thrust upon women.
In a rare interview with the BBC recently, Daniel Ek was asked by presenter Zoe Kleinman whether 12 podcast episodes over two-and-a-half years from the royal couple was worth the estimated $35 million that they had been offered, per the Daily Mail.
The streaming giant’s response was very diplomatic – certainly more so than Spotify executive Bill Simmons’, who branded the couple “f**king grifters” shortly after news of the deal’s demise broke.
“We thought new innovation was needed to happen here. We thought we can come in and offer a great experience that both makes consumers very happy and allows new creators new avenues,” Ek told the BBC host.
“And the truth of the matter is some of it has worked, some of it hasn’t. We’re learning from those and we are moving on and we wish all of the ones we didn’t renew with the best of success they can have going forward.”
Following its debut, Archetypes became the top podcast on Spotify and won a People’s Choice Award in December. However, sources told Variety at the time that Spotify executives had expected more content from their eye-watering deal with the Sussexes.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the couple did not meet the “productivity benchmarks” required to get the full payout before their contract ended.
It’s unclear how much they ultimately made from the arrangement.
While the Spotify deal’s termination came as something of a shock, there had been hints months earlier that it may have been on the horizon.
Ek delivered some very telling remarks on a conference call with financial analysts in April, admitting the company had been “overpaying” and “overinvesting”.
“And the ones that aren’t performing, obviously, we won’t renew. And the ones that are performing, we will obviously look at those on a case-by-case basis on the relative value.”
The Sun reported at the time that Spotify was looking to drop any content not meeting audience demands – a policy which also appeared to claim former First Lady Michelle Obama’s podcast, which was cancelled last year.
Meanwhile, sources close to Harry and Meghan gave their side of the story on what really went wrong in August, telling People magazine the couple was left on “unsteady footing”.
According to them, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not set up for success after signing the eye-watering contract in late 2020 and had to deal with an overload of red tape in the months and years that followed.
“They were given no formal lay of the land to kick things off, so they were already on unsteady footing even before the ink was dry,” the insider told People magazine, adding they “have a lot of ideas and did pitch them,” but that “things moved very slowly on both ends.”