Neil Young is a legend in the world of folk, rock, and music in general. In the world of Spotify however, it would appear that Joe Rogan outranks the “Godfather of Grunge.” Following an ultimatum from Young earlier this week, the streaming music and podcast giant has decided to delist his music rather than follow Young’s request to address the vaccine misinformation being spewed by the podcast host.
On Monday January 24th, Young wrote a letter to his manager and an executive at Warner Music, insisting that his music be pulled from Spotify due to Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Young has taken issue with how Rogan continues to give false information and spin false narratives about COVID-19 vaccines. Rogan was a comedian and actor in addition to a mixed martial artist and UFC commentator. Rogan is not and has never been a medical professional, yet continues to call into question vaccines that he clearly does not understand. If the problem was isolated to Rogan, maybe this would be a different matter, but Young’s letter takes aim at how Rogan draws in nearly 11 million listeners per episode and how many people are negatively influenced.
Cut to Wednesday, and Spotify made its position clear. They began removing Neil Young’s music from its platform. While regrettable, it’s not much of a surprise. Despite the Canadian rocker’s enduring popularity and tremendous back catalog, he’s not Joe Rogan and more people are subscribing to the service for Rogan than Young. After all, Spotify did reportedly pay over $100 million in order to secure the exclusive rights to Rogan’s past and future podcast episodes. It’s not like they were going to let that investment go to waste or meddle with their biggest name, even if he is a conduit of baseless claims.
Considering how big Spotify is, it’s a huge move for Young to pull his music from there. According to the musician himself, 60% of his streaming revenue comes directly from Spotify; so it’s not exactly pocket change we’re talking about here. As the pandemic continues to affect mass gatherings, musicians have had a harder time touring; which if you know about the music industry, you know this is a major source of revenue for artists. Thanks to this, many musicians and artists have had to rely on digital streaming and sales to make up for their losses.
“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” a spokesperson for Spotify told The Hollywood Reporter.
I mean, this is the man who wrote a 9-minute song where the only words through the whole thing are, “Got mashed potatoes, got mashed potatoes, got mashed potatoes, ain’t got no T-Bone.” Based on that, is it really surprising he’d tell Spotify to stuff it?