Prince Harry and Meghan Markle cut ties with Spotify. So why are they facing backlash?


A multi-million-dollar deal between a media group run by Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, and streaming giant Spotify ended. Photo: AFP

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at the centre of controversy again – this time within the world of podcasting.

After Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle's dramatic fallout with the British royal family in 2020, the couple's production company, Archewell Audio, inked a deal with Spotify reportedly worth US$20mil.

Signed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the husband and wife sought to bring more "stories of hope and compassion" to the audio streaming platform.

But more than two years later and after their Spotify deal was cut short, it seems the duo's positivity-oriented podcasting efforts have left a negative impression on some people.

Last Thursday (June 15), Archewell Audio and Spotify announced in a joint statement that they "mutually agreed" to part ways nearly three years after the ex-royals signed on to produce podcasts and audio shows for the streaming giant.

Since landing the deal, Archewell Audio only released one audio series – the Meghan-hosted Archetypes – and a 30-minute 2020 holiday special.

"We are proud of the series we made together," Spotify and Archewell said in a joint statement shared with the LA Times.

Hours after news of the Sussexes' breakup with Spotify spread the next day, the Ringer founder Bill Simmons, who is the head of Spotify's podcast innovation and monetisation, called out the couple.

"Let's say I wish I had been involved in the 'Meghan and Harry leave Spotify' negotiation," he said on the episode of his self-titled podcast on June 16.

He continued: "The F— Grifters. That's the podcast we should have launched them. I gotta get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try to help him with a podcast idea."

In January, Simmons, who sold podcast network the Ringer to Spotify in 2020, also said he was "embarrassed to share Spotify" with Prince Harry.

"You live in (expletive) Montecito and you just sell documentaries and podcasts and no one cares what you have to say about anything unless you talk about the royal family and you just complain about them," he said.

That remark took aim at the affluent California coastal community Harry and Meghan moved to after leaving Britain, and likely referenced their series of bombshell revelations since, including their incendiary 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, recent Netflix documentary series and Harry's bestseller Spare.

As the Sussexes' Spotify deal fizzled, it seems Simmons was not the only person who took issue with the husband and wife's business practices.

Podnews reported Monday (June 19) that former Suits star allegedly faked interviews for her Archetypes podcast.

The website reported that multiple interviews were allegedly conducted by "other staffers" and Meghan's questions were later edited into the final product.

The outlet did not specify whether conversations with celebrities or Archetypes expert sources were the interviews in question.

Representatives for Meghan and Archewell did not immediately respond to the LA Times' request for comment.

The audio series, which launched in August 2022, sought to "investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back."

Featuring a variety of guests ranging from heiress Paris Hilton to tennis GOAT Serena Williams, Archetypes unseated The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify's list of most-listened-to podcasts in six regions within its first month.

Archewell produced one season – 12 episodes – of the Archetypes podcast. The final episode featured featured ex-Daily Show host Trevor Noah, Bravo's Andy Cohen and filmmaker Judd Apatow.

As reports of Meghan's alleged edited interviews spread, members of the Archetypes team defended the podcast on social media. Former Gimlet editor and filmmaker Andrea B. Scott tweeted Monday "we did occasionally have producers do interviews, though never the main ones."

Scott added: "We never edited her asking questions into interviews that producers conducted."

Twitter users also pulled up visual evidence by way of Instagram receipts, tweeting photos of Meghan posing with several celebrities who were podcast guests, including TV star Mindy Kaling and journalist Lisa Ling.

The end of Harry and Meghan's deal with Spotify comes more than a week after the Stockholm-based company announced a round of layoffs. The platform reduced its staff by 200 people, or about 2% of its workforce, amid restructuring in the podcast division.

Archetypes may not have a future at Spotify, but it's possible fans will have more to hear from the series – just on a different platform.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the Spotify split, "conversations are ongoing for other homes for Archewell content."

Drama is nothing new for Prince Harry and Meghan, whose relationship has been fodder for tabloids since they started dating in 2016.

Most recently, the duo alleged in May they were involved in a "near catastrophic car chase" in New York while being followed by a "highly aggressive paparazzi" – evoking the moments leading up to the 1997 death of Harry's mother, Princess Diana.

"While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety," an Archewell spokesperson said at the time.

The New York Police Department said there were no "collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests" reported in the alleged chase.

Celebrity photo agency Backgrid USA Inc. also disputed the couple's account, but said it is "taking Prince Harry's allegations seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the matter." – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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