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Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground to leave Spotify deal

Apr 21, 2022
Photo illustration of Michelle and Barack Obama removing headphones from their ears.

Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photos: Jörg Carstensen/dpa, Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground production company will end its exclusive relationship with Spotify as the two seek a new, multi-million dollar podcast deal elsewhere, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The Obamas want their content distributed as widely as possible, while Spotify has built its business on being the only place for certain podcasts.

  • While Higher Ground retains ownership of its content, Spotify will still have rights to distribute the shows made under its current deal, a source tells Axios.

Details: Bloomberg, which first reported the news, said Higher Ground is talking with iHeart and Amazon's Audible and is eyeing a massive increase from its Spotify deal.

  • Spotify declined to offer what the Obamas were seeking, since a widely-released show would likely end up on their platform anyway, even if not exclusively.
  • Higher Ground's deal with Spotify doesn't expire for another six months, the source added.

Catch up quick: Since signing an exclusive deal with Spotify in 2019, Higher Ground has produced "The Michelle Obama Podcast," "Renegades: Born in the USA" featuring Barack and Bruce Springsteen, "The Big Hit Show" and "Tell Them, I Am."

  • "The Michelle Obama Podcast" was one of Spotify's five most popular podcasts in 2020.

Be smart: This is happening as Spotify is losing Courtney Holt, an influential executive who was among the company's biggest dealmakers.

  • Holt was a key figure in Spotify's podcast push, including licensing deals with Joe Rogan and the Obamas, and acquiring other podcast networks.

What's next: Higher Ground wants to find its new home quickly. According to Bloomberg, the Obamas hope for a new deal in the next few weeks.

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