Last weekend, Jamil “Mal” Clay and Rory Farrell, former co-hosts of The Joe Budden Podcast, recorded an hour-long video explaining why they’re no longer involved in the show. “In some cases, I can’t tell you everything—just because it is personal and legal things to some degree—but there should be some transparency,” Rory said. “This is not my truth, this is the truth,” Mal added. “This is what happened and what didn’t happen and I thought we owed it to the fans and the supporters.” Their situation reveals the ways contracts can be just as complicated for podcasters as they are for musicians.
Fans of The Joe Budden Podcast have been feeling tension brewing between its three co-hosts for months. When Mal and Rory were absent from the show earlier this year, Budden denied the trio was at odds. “I’ll eliminate some of the suspense,” Budden said in a March episode. “This is Rory’s seat, and this is Mal’s seat. Whenever they feel like returning to their seats, then they’ll return to their seats. And then what will happen is the same thing when your star player comes back to the team.” That amenable tone was missing from a recent broadcast where he fired Rory on air last week. “Rory, you are in breach of your contract, and from this point forward, you are fired,” he said to an empty chair. “And you’re not welcome back.”
Mal and Rory claim much of the strain from the show surrounded their contract, which was a profit sharing model that started as a verbal agreement. Rory said he was initially comfortable with sharing in the profits from the podcast and wasn't interested in fighting over the actual intellectual property (the show is called The Joe Budden Podcast after all). “Let’s put some real sweat equity into this shit," he said. But he added that as the show grew more popular, they hit a crucial point where they could get branding deals that could potentially be very lucrative. So before that happened, Rory and Mal wanted a plan in place and in writing—one that would benefit them all in equal measure.
“People think we work for Joe and we’re employees and we get a salary,” Mal said. “That’s not what it was. We get a percentage based contract, so we have to ask for accounting, because how else would we know what we get?” They said that receiving that information wasn’t easy, and that the finances grew from being a few line items sent over in a body copy of an email to an Excel spreadsheet—one they claim was returned with a $400,000 mistake. “People don’t understand that this isn’t something that happened since last month or March,” Mal said. “We’ve been trying to get some kind of accounting since 2019, maybe.” Their allegations about the lack of transparency around their contract, even on a podcast associated with Spotify and Patreon deals, shines a light that even the most visible entertainers can struggle to see profit they deserve. As Megan Thee Stallion’s dispute with 1501 Certified Entertainment showed, popularity does not always mean an artist is reaping the benefits of their success.
Even in the research for this piece, the information about what podcasters should expect to make or how to navigate contracts isn’t readily available. Podcasting is still relatively new territory—Adam Curry and David Winer are credited with making the very first podcast in 2004, and the ecosystem is not yet as robust as those of radio, television, and film—sectors of entertainment that still have antiquated and oppressive systems.
In 2019, a Nieman Lab newsletter tried to help podcast producers become more adept at deciphering botched deals, breaking down a good contract into one that focuses on production, editorial, and intellectual property. But regardless of whether or not we’re talking about a singer or a producer or a podcaster, a good contract should be reflective of the work put in. The fallout between Budden, Mal, and Rory is messy, but the conversation around it should be the first step in normalizing transparency for how creatives are paid.
Kristin Corry is a Senior Staff Writer for VICE.