Spotify’s Top Creator Partnerships Executive to Depart in May

Max Cutler — the executive who oversees Spotify’s exclusive deals with top creators like Joe Rogan, Call Her Daddy‘s Alex Cooper and Emma Chamberlain — will leave the company in May, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Cutler’s exit comes shortly after Spotify announced a reorganization on Jan. 23 that led to the departure of Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and ad business officer, and the promotions of Alex Norström and Gustav Söderström to the co-president positions.

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With Cutler’s pending departure, Julie McNamara will now take over leadership of Spotify’s exclusive licensing deals with creators like Rogan, Cooper and Chamberlain in addition to continuing to lead original content and major studio partnerships. Bryan Thoensen, who joined Spotify late last year from TikTok and initially reported up to Cutler, will oversee content partnerships with third-party creators. And Bill Simmons, who was promoted last May to lead Spotify’s sports content and strategy outside of the U.S., will be responsible for podcast monetization across Spotify’s portfolio of content. He will continue to lead The Ringer.

McNamara, Thoensen and Simmons will all report up to Sahar Elhabashi, the head of Spotify’s podcast business; Elhabashi reports up to Norström, whose purview includes Spotify’s content business.

Cutler’s departure comes roughly four years after Spotify acquired Parcast, the podcast studio founded and led by Cutler, for 49 million euros (about $55 million) in 2019. The executive had a quick rise within Spotify’s podcast leadership ranks, receiving a promotion last May to lead the audio giant’s buzzy, exclusive licensing deals with top podcast creators and relinquish direct oversight of Parcast, which he founded in 2016.

But in recent months, Spotify has reevaluated its $1 billion-plus investments into podcasting as Wall Street pressures the company to turn make its expansion profitable. In addition to layoffs — some of which impacted staff at Parcast and Spotify’s other in-house podcast studio, Gimlet — top executives have signaled plans to be more judicious with talent deals and content spend. The company also has a new activist investor in Mason Morfit’s ValueAct Capital Management, which is expected to keep an eye on Spotify’s spending on podcasts and other audio expansions.

“In hindsight, I probably got a little carried away and over-invested relative to the uncertainty we saw shaping up in the market,” Ek told analysts on Jan. 31 during Spotify’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “So we are shifting the focus on tightening our spend and becoming more efficient.”

As for Cutler’s exit, the timing appears to follow a typical four-year earn-out cycle for M&A deals, though Spotify declined to comment on the specific timing of Cutler’s situation.

In a note to staff, obtained by THR, Cutler said he was leaving to “return to [his] entrepreneurial roots” and launch his own venture, though he did not share additional details on the business. The executive also noted that Helen Lindqvist, the head of operations within the creator content division, would be leaving after six years at Spotify.

“I strongly believe that companies operating at the intersection of great content and dynamic creators have never had more opportunities than they do now. With the traditional media industry ripe for disruption, I am excited to take on this new challenge and drive innovation forward,” Cutler wrote. “I am deeply grateful to Daniel [Ek], Alex [Norström], and Sahar [Elhabashi] for their unwavering support of my decision to return to my entrepreneurial roots as I embark on this next chapter. I look forward to sharing more details about my next venture with the world soon.”

Feb. 21, 2:23 p.m.: Updated with additional details and to clarify that Cutler’s exit is separate from the Spotify reorganization announced Jan. 23.

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