Obamas Ink Deal With Spotify to Produce, Host Podcasts

Through Higher Ground Audio, Barack and Michelle Obama will develop, produce and lend their voices to audio shows for the music streaming service.

The Obamas are expanding their media domain through a multiyear deal with Spotify to create podcasts exclusive to the audio service.

Barack and Michelle Obama's partnership with Spotify comes through their Higher Ground production banner, which is already in business with Netflix on a number of projects. Now, Higher Ground is launching a podcast division, Higher Ground Audio, through which the former president and first lady will develop, produce and lend their voices to select shows for Spotify.

"We've always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation," Barack Obama said Thursday in a statement announcing the deal. "It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas. We're excited about Higher Ground Audio because podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together."

Spotify's roots are as a platform for streaming music. It has 217 million monthly active users and 100 million subscribers to its subscription offering.

The company already offers some exclusive podcasts, like The Joe Budden Podcast and Jemele Hill's Unbothered. But the partnership with the Obamas is the highest-profile talent deal for the music streamer since it signaled big ambitions for the audio space with the February acquisitions of Gimlet Media and Anchor. "What I didn't know when we launched to consumers in 2008 was that audio — not just music — would be the future of Spotify," Daniel Ek wrote in a blog post at the time. 

"President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are two of the world's most important voices, and it is a privilege to be working with them to identify and share stories that will inspire our global audience, which looks to Spotify for unique, breakthrough content," Spotify's chief content officer Dawn Ostroff said in a statement. "Connecting people with original and thoughtful creators — especially those with the ability to highlight underrepresented and indispensable narratives — is at the core of our mission, and we are thrilled that not only will the Obamas be producing content, but that they will be lending their voices to this effort."

Higher Ground is central to the Obamas' post-White House life. Through their deals with Netflix and Spotify, they have a new platform to reach millions of consumers with the stories they want to share. At Netflix, for instance, their banner is producing scripted, unscripted and documentary series and movies, including a Callie Khouri period drama and an anthology series adapted from The New York Times' "Overlooked" obituary column. 

Michelle Obama, in a statement, noted their interest in amplifying "voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether." She added, "Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds — and their hearts."