Dear Gossips, 

In a joint statement last Thursday, Spotify and Archewell Audio, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s podcast production company, had “mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together”. Much of what’s come out since, however, isn’t giving “mutually agreed”. Spotify has been cutting costs, and had already said on an investor call earlier this year that they would be cutting back on its previous trend of throwing money at high profile names and “overpaying and overinvesting”. Spotify’s deal with the Obamas’ Higher Ground ended this year, and now it’s the Sussexes that they’ve cut ties with. 


Much of the rationale is that Harry and Meghan simply weren’t producing enough content. Over almost three years, Archetypes is the only show that’s aired and even before the partnership ended, there didn’t seem to be any plans to launch any new productions. Emily Yeomans, head of content in creator communications for Spotify, wrote in an email to Hot Pod, that “We can’t comment on the specifics of how [the Archewell Audio] deal was structured but for reference, Higher Ground as continued to deliver multiple new series, even since launching their partnership with Audible. In the 2.5 years, Archewell only produced one season of Archetypes”. 

There’s also not much “mutually agreed” energy when you consider Bill Simmons’s comments about Harry and Meghan on his podcast after the announcement that Spotify wouldn’t be continuing with Archewell Audio. Simmons, who sold The Ringer to Spotify and is now Head of Podcast and Monetisation at Spotify, called Harry and Meghan “f-cking grifters” and teased that he wasn’t impressed with Harry after being on a call with him once. “I gotta get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories.”


Bill Simmons isn’t exactly without controversy himself and part of his appeal to his audience is that he has no filter. So the fact that Bill isn’t a fan of the Sussexes doesn’t mean that the Sussexes are sh-tty. And in this case I wonder if Bill might be contradicting himself – or not really transparent about what Spotify wanted from Harry and Meghan. 

Because last year he had already shared that he wasn’t big on Harry, in particular, saying on his pod that:

I’m so tired of this guy. What does he bring to the table? He just whines about shit and keeps giving interviews. Who gives a sh-t? Who cares about your life? You weren’t even the favorite son. You live in f-cking Montecito and you just sell documentaries and podcasts and nobody cares what you have to say about anything unless you talk about the royal family and you just complain about them.”


That might be what he thinks of Harry but at the same time, isn’t that the kind of content Spotify was really looking for from Harry and Meghan? They wanted gossip. They wanted Harry and Meghan do at Spotify what they did over at Netflix with their documentary. They wanted audio tea. And, clearly, Harry and Meghan weren’t about that.

But while I don’t necessarily agree with Bill Simmons’ particular take on the Sussexes, there is a worthwhile conversation to have about their professional viability going forward. Archetypes was able to attract a high profile roster of guests, from Mariah Carey to Serena Williams to Mindy Kaling and more. The show was fine, but as I wrote last August after Mimi’s episode was released, I thought was over-produced. Mimi’s episode was a good example – because where Mimi was loose and unfiltered, Meghan came off as rather formal, she wasn’t quite able to match Mimi’s vibe, although Mimi tried, and there were a few moments were Mimi was able to loosen Meghan up. Those moments, unfortunately, were cut short (like when they started talking about their hair) so in the editing, Meghan and her producers decided to cut back on the best bits, resulting in a conversation that was less engaging than it could have been. That was only the second episode of the show, so there was room to tweak and work out a better groove, but in listening to subsequent episodes, the pod still never quite got there. 


Meghan, given what she’s been through, is probably – and understandably – hyper aware of what she says, because we all know what happens when she says something and then the tabloids do their f-ckery. But for both Meghan and Harry, that’s also the big interest. This is their dilemma: for the last several years, the intrigue around them has been what is deeply personal. They’ve shared their story, on Netflix in the documentary and also in Harry’s book. It’s imperative for them to build a new narrative. But whether or not we let them is another story. That’s going to be their challenge going forward as they try to move beyond their past conflicts – how will the Sussexes establish themselves as creatives and tell stories independent of their royal experience? 

Tressie McMillan Cottom articulates this conundrum perfectly: 


“They want to make money from fame but not from gossip.” It’s an objective point. The fact of the matter is, the opportunities that have come to Harry and Meghan are not necessarily, at least not yet, based on their capabilities. As we saw from Archetypes, both still have a lot to learn where producing (whether it’s podcasts or television shows or films) is concerned because they simply don’t have the experience yet. The deals they’ve signed were as a result of their celebrity – and when we’re talking about celebrity and backing it up with the work, the actual work is the next challenge. 

Harry and Meghan have been criticised for their relationship, for their dealings with their families, for all kinds of f-cksh-t that has happened in their personal lives, and an overwhelming majority of that has been unfair. But it’s not unfair to judge them by their work, their actual professional output. Going forward, can the Sussexes now back up their celebrity with quality work? 

Yours in gossip,