A royal separation of sorts: After a two-and-a-half-year partnership, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are parting ways with Spotify, The Wall Street Journal reports. In a joint statement redolent of a celebrity notes-app breakup announcement, Archewell Studios, the audio production company spearheaded by the duke and duchess of Sussex, and the streaming service say they have “mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together.”
When the Sussexes first signed their Spotify deal back in 2020 for a reported $20 million, they promised audiences “different perspectives” and interviews with “amazing people.” After taking their sweet time to actually debut any audio content, the couple created one show under their contract: Archetypes, hosted by Markle and described as a means to “investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that hold women back.” The series debuted on Spotify last August; over the course of its 12-episode run, Markle chatted with Serena Williams about ambition and unpacked “diva” with Mariah Carey and “singleton” with Mindy Kaling. While the series won the 2022 People’s Choice Award for pop podcast, it received mixed reviews from critics: “What is being promoted as a subversive feminist podcast appears, so far, to be nothing more than an exercise in navel-gazing,” a reviewer wrote for The Independent last year, accusing Markle of inserting herself into her guests’ stories and speaking “almost exclusively in platitudes.” For its part, Spotify has confirmed it won’t renew Archetypes for a second season, though a representative from the company confirmed that executives at both parties discussed the possibility “given the first season’s success.”
But new details that have emerged post-split paint a messier picture of the Sussex-Spotify partnership. Sources for the Journal suggest the couple haven’t met the requisite productivity benchmarks to receive the full payout from their deal, while multiple insiders reportedly told PodNews that some of Meghan’s interviews were conducted by other Archetypes staffers, with Meghan’s questions edited in later. Bill Simmons, Spotify’s head of innovation and monetization, called the couple “grifters” on his eponymous podcast: “I wish I had been involved in the Meghan-and-Harry-leave-Spotify negotiation,” Simmons said last week. “The Fucking Grifters. That’s the podcast we should have launched with them.”
In a statement regarding her People’s Choice Award win, Markle called the “premiere season” of Archetypes a “labor of love,” language that arguably suggests more seasons to come. “I loved digging my hands into the process, sitting up late at night in bed, working on the writing and creative,” she said. Nevertheless, it sounds like she’s taking the end of this era in stride, with a representative from William Morris Endeavor, which recently signed Markle as a client, telling the Journal that the duchess “is continuing to develop more content for the Archetypes audience on another platform” — perhaps on Netflix, where, might I remind you, the couple has a five-year deal rumored to be worth over $100 million? Yeah, I imagine any broken hearts involved will heal just fine.