Will The Joe Budden Network Be A Success Story?

In early 2015, former rapper turned podcaster and burgeoning media mogul Joe Budden, launched I’ll Name This Podcast Later (now known as The Joe Budden Podcast), alongside his friends and co-hosts Marisa Mendez and Rory Farrell. All seemed to be going well, that is until the relationship between Joe and Marisa suddenly fell apart in 2016, when Joe fired her from the podcast via text. This was later followed up with a very awkward conversation about the situation on the Hot 97 morning show, with Ebro Darden and Paul Rosenberg (Marisa was also present). Joe was there to promote his album ‘Rage & The Machine’, but Ebro and Rosenberg had other ideas.

To this day, the world is still none the wiser regarding the true cause of Joe and Marisa’s fallout.

Joe quickly filled Marisa’s now vacant position with his long-time pal, Jamil ‘Mal’ Clay. Mal proved to be a good fit, and with the later addition of Joe’s former engineer Parks Vallely, the podcast’s popularity increased and went from strength to strength.

In August 2018, Joe signed an exclusive deal with the streaming giant Spotify, for an undisclosed amount. The show went from one episode a week, to two episodes a week, every Wednesday and Saturday.

In early 2020, Joe announced that the podcast’s 2-year exclusive deal with Spotify would soon expire, but teased he was in the process of renegotiating a new deal with the corporation. The teasing of the ongoing renegotiations went on for months. At one point, it sounded like Joe was well on his way to signing an extremely lucrative deal. One that would make him and his co-hosts very wealthy men. But sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Joe and Spotify failed to reach an agreement and contract renegotiations subsequently broke down.

In August 2020, Joe announced he and his podcast would no longer be exclusive to Spotify after September 2020. He said:

“September 23rd, I cannot tell you where this podcast will be. But as it stands, I can tell you where it will not be, and that is Spotify. Spotify never cared about this podcast individually. Spotify only cared about our contribution to the platform. I am not going to succumb to any bad deal that is not working favourably toward the people who have created that path.”

Joe then went on to claim that his show exceeded Spotify’s audience reach expectations by 900 percent, to the point that his listeners crashed the platform. He also revealed that he never received a bonus, and the company wouldn’t allow him and his team to take time off over the Christmas break and on New Year’s Eve.

In a statement, Spotify said:

“As Joe referenced on his show, we made him a considerable offer — one that was significantly larger and many times the value of the existing agreement and reflective of the current market and size of his audience. Unfortunately, we could not come to terms and we respect his wishes to find a new home for his show.”

The parting of ways sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Everyone seemed to have an opinion, including Joe’s long-time frenemy, The Breakfast Club host, Charlamagne Tha God (real name Lenard McKelvey).

In response to the news, Charlamagne said:

“It sounds to me like Joe Budden is a person who knows his worth but doesn’t know how to properly negotiate it. If you keep doing deals with various corporations and you keep getting trash-ass deals, that’s on you. Things like vacation days, bonuses, all of that has to be negotiated in your contract from the beginning.”

This triggered off a back and forth, that then became very personal. There would be no more “friendly banter” between these two men or future Joe Budden appearances on The Breakfast Club after this spat!

In retaliation to something Joe said on his podcast, a smear campaign was quickly unleashed. Gossip vlogger and YouTuber Jason Lee, two fame hungry ex-girlfriends and a former female friend turned bitter foe, were all enlisted to help take down Joe. But the smear campaign ultimately failed, because those involved underestimated Joe’s popularity and his loyal fanbase. Many speculated that Spotify was behind the smear campaign. They were wrong! It was as clear as day who the culprit was behind that spiteful mess.

After the campaign came to a sudden halt, listeners wondered about the future of The Joe Budden Podcast. What was going to be Joe’s next move?

On September 9, 2020, his nemesis Charlamagne launched The Black Effect Podcast Network, which is a joint partnership with iHeartMedia. A month later, Joe revealed that The Joe Budden Podcast would be part of his new online media venture, The Joe Budden Network. The podcast and the network can be accessed via all digital platforms, with the exception of Spotify.

The first new podcast launched on the network was the See, The Thing Is… podcast, hosted by Bridget Kelly, Olivia Dope and Mandii B. This was then quickly followed up with the launch of the Girl, I Guess podcast, hosted by Karen Civil and Ming Lee.

In February 2021, Joe launched The Joe Budden Network on Patreon, offering a range of bonus content and perks to subscribers on three different tiers (priced at $5, $10 and $25 per month). Joe also joined Patreon in an advisory role as “head of creator equity”. According to Variety, ‘this is a paid position in which he’ll collaborate with the company on pro-creator programs and policies’.

Admittedly, I have never paid close attention to Joe’s music career, but I have always been drawn to his off the wall personality and antics. His sense of humour and dry wit is very British. So much so, that it still constantly goes over his fellow country men’s heads. Those traits have also made this walking talking tragic comedy of a man, somewhat of an outsider in the world of hip hop. Something, that has worked in his favour. It has set Joe apart from his peers and taken him down a far more interesting and rewarding path.

Since the acrimonious split from Spotify, many have been questioning Joe’s business acumen, his decision-making skills, his management, the Patreon deal, the new podcasts on the platform, the relationship between him and his co-hosts (particularly Rory) and the running of his new network in general. 

When the See, The Thing Is… podcast launched, the rollout was moderate and the first episode was greeted with mixed reviews. As the show progressed, Bridget and Mandii began to develop a good rapport with each other. Olivia on the other hand, just didn’t seem to mesh well with Mandii or the network’s boss – Joe.

The star-studded promotional rollout of the Girl, I Guess podcast, didn’t help matters either. Karen Civil is a branding and marketing machine. The launch of her podcast was always going to be different and leave a lasting impression. But unfortunately, it unintentionally overshadowed See, The Thing Is...  

During an episode of See, The Thing Is…, the audience was given an insight into the network’s internal issues. A lack of communication, support and leadership seemed to be the main concerns. As well as individuals feeling “blindsided”, by the sudden arrival of another all-female led podcast.

It, therefore, came as no surprise when Olivia bid farewell to the network in February.

To be fair to Joe, the move from being solely an artist/content creator to becoming the owner of his own media network was never going to be an easy transition. Creative types don’t tend to adapt well to the pressures and expectations that come with being an owner.

Even the mighty Oprah Winfrey, had to overcome a mountain of obstacles. Four months after launching the OWN Network back in 2011, Oprah confessed, “had I known that it was going to be this difficult, I might have done something else.” The stress of running the network also led to the media mogul having a nervous breakdown.

In the early days, OWN struggled to find an audience, the ratings were low and a smaller than expected viewership led to redundancies within the organisation. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel when Tyler Perry signed a deal to create content for OWN. Today, Tyler is credited for helping to save the once failing network.

Those who continue to criticise Joe, need to be reminded that it is still very early days for his network. Sourcing the right talent, creating dynamic new content, building a solid foundation and incorporating a functioning HR department isn’t all going to happen overnight.

Remember, Rome was not built in a day!

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March 2021
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