Did Spotify let the Obamas go? Former first couple strikes multi-million dollar deal with Audible

Democratic National Convention via AP

Barack and Michelle Obama have left Spotify for Amazon-owned Audible. The former first couple began podcasting for Spotify with a series of shows from their production company, Higher Ground. The production company was co-founded by the Obamas who have inked an exclusive, multiyear first-look deal with Audible. Audible is on a winning streak by signing high-profile celebrities and public figures in Hollywood.


I ask if Spotify let them go and that spurred on the change for the Obamas because of a statement made by Spotify on the Obama’s new deal. I highlighted the words in bold print. The Obamas are coming at it as an opportunity to reach a larger audience. And Audible is focusing on establishing long-term deals with big names.

“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Higher Ground and while we declined to extend our deal we are excited about the series we made together and those still to come in the months ahead,” a Spotify spokesperson told THR.

The move to Audible follows Higher Ground’s exit from Spotify, where the production company — founded by Barack and Michelle Obama — previously had a multiyear deal to create podcasts exclusively for the Stockholm-based audio giant. Though Audible’s original content, known as Audible Originals, is typically made available only for subscribers, the Amazon-owned company does offer some of its original content on all major audio platforms, providing the Obamas with the opportunity to reach a broader audience in comparison to shows that have previously launched exclusively on Spotify.

In an interview with THR earlier this year, Rachel Ghiazza, Audible’s executive vp and head of U.S. content, and Zola Mashariki, head of Audible Studios, said the company seeks to create long-lasting partnerships with talent by offering a wide berth of creative freedom as well as support from Audible’s in-house audio teams. “We’re not trying to do, necessarily, a one-and-done situation,” Ghiazza said in April of the company’s dealmaking process. “We’re signing up to be partners for a really long time.”

With its first-look deal with Audible, Higher Ground will now be joining a roster that includes stars like Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, George Clooney, Lena Waithe, Laura Dern, Queen Latifah, LeBron James, Kevin Hart and Charlamagne tha God — all of whom have also inked multiyear deals with Audible through their various production arms.


It sounds like the Obama deal was a short-term one. Take the cash and go. I wonder if Harry and Meghan will follow suit, since they have patterned their media exposure like that of the Obamas, including a Spotify deal of their own. Are they the next to sign on with Audible? Well, Spotify always has Joe Rogan, so that’s not too shabby. Spotify may just be making room to keep some podcasts and move to other genres. Everyone and their brother has a podcast these days, no doubt the market is getting saturated.

The end of Higher Ground’s contract with Spotify also marks a turning point for Spotify’s $1 billion podcast expansion, where some of those funds have gone toward exclusive deals with high-profile talent like the Obamas and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as well as major podcast creators like Joe Rogan and Call Her Daddy host Alex Cooper. But amid a reorganization of the company’s podcast leadership team, acquisitions of major audio tech companies and expectations of turning its podcast business profitable in the next few years, Spotify may turn more of its focus toward growing its existing stable of podcasts and making headways into narrative fiction, especially given the recent success of Batman Unburied, the Spotify original series created with Warner Bros. and DC.

Barack Obama put a happy face on the announcement. Why not? He’s making millions at either outlet.


“At Higher Ground, we have always sought to lift up voices that deserve to be heard — and Audible is invested in realizing that vision alongside us,” President Obama said. “I’m looking forward to partnering with them to tell stories that not only entertain, but also inspire.”

Michelle Obama’s message was the same as Barack’s – Let us inspire you with our wonderful selves. Or something. However, Michelle has an odd way of inspiring people to get out and vote. She chose to use a doom and gloom message that democracy in our country is “fading” during a democracy summit.

“We are so proud of the stories we have been able to tell at Higher Ground, and there’s no one we’d rather write our next chapter with than Audible,” said Michelle Obama in the Audible press release. “Together, we will keep striving to tell compelling, provocative, and soulful stories—while doing everything we can to make sure they reach the folks who need to hear them.”

Michelle Obama spoke at the Culture of Democracy Summit this month, where she claimed that democracy in the U.S. is “fading.”

When We All Vote is a voting registration campaign started in 2018 with the help of Obama, who made the remarks as part of the summit’s keynote speech.

“No one has the luxury to sit out or stay at home just because you’re not feeling excited enough. If you don’t vote, other people will,” Obama said.


Get out and vote or someone else will. Hmm. Pretty sure whether or not someone votes, someone else always will, too. Good heavens. Who writes these messages for them?

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