It’s official. You won’t hear Neil Young’s music on Spotify anymore.
The classic rocker railed against the platform earlier this week for hosting Joe Rogan’s popular podcast. “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Young complained, spreads “misinformation” to the masses, particularly about COVID-19.
Team Young clearly hoped Spotify would take down some of Rogan’s content or perhaps add disclaimers about the show’s commentary.
Spotify did neither, and now Young’s fans will have to look elsewhere for hits like “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Harvest Moon.”
That’s hardly the end of the story. The kerfuffle leaves us with both lessons and unanswered questions.
There’s a solid chance other artists will put pressure on Spotify as Young did. The artistic community, sadly, isn’t marching in lockstep when it comes to free speech. In fact, many stars cheer when someone is deplatformed. Others stay quiet as Cancel Culture erases their work or, in the case of Roseanne Barr, their careers.
At 76, Young isn’t the cultural force he was during his days with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. What about a much younger star, someone crushing the current pop charts? Could that star, along with his or her social media flock, coax Spotify to change its mind?
That’s precisely what Young is calling for, and at least one comedian is attempting to rally the anti-free speech troops.
Just killed my spotify account. They pulled all comics stuff a month ago because they didn’t want to pay them and I’m not up for supporting insane disinformation. Listening to Neil Young.
— Titus (@TitusNation) January 27, 2022
UPDATE: Fellow folk superstar Joni Mitchell joined Young in his anti-Spotify crusade while rumors that Barry Manilow ditched Spotify proved to be false.
Spotify Still Hearts Censorship
The audio platform erased several high-profile episodes of “JRE” when the comedian joined the company in 2020. Those episodes featured figures like conspiracy monger Alex Jones, someone who no longer can be seen on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Rogan shrugged at the censorship, confident that Spotify wouldn’t touch episodes recorded under the new contract.
So far, he’s been right.
Yet a chilling part of Spotify’s response to the imbroglio isn’t getting enough attention. Here’s what the platform shared with The Washington Post this week regarding the matter.
“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 [emphasis added] related to covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
What kind of content did Spotify erase, exactly? Did the shows warn us that cloth masks aren’t very effective against the virus, something the CDC finally acknowledged in recent weeks? Or, did podcasters suggest a lab leak theory early in the pandemic, another truth bomb which didn’t explode until just a few weeks ago?
We’re already seen social media giants ban inconvenient truths about the virus. Was Spotify doing something similar all along?
That’s not all.
Did this involve major podcasts or smaller shows without the clout Rogan brings to the company? Who is doing their fact-checking? CNN? PolitiFact? Some other biased outfit?
The lack of transparency is troubling.
The Next Week May Be Critical
If other artists rally behind Young it’ll probably happen over the next 3-5 days. They’ll have to check with their agents, of course, and judge the PR fallout or bounce from such a move.
The media, of course, will grant anyone who joins Young’s crusade all the fawning press they could ever crave. Don’t discount that in the process.
How Long Can Spotify Stand Up for Rogan?
Less than two years ago select Spotify employees met, and met again, with management to demand Rogan’s show undergo some nips and tucks.
Rogan interviewed folks like Abigail Shrier, the author behind “Irreversible Damage,” a book critical of select elements of the trans movement.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek listened to the complaints but stood by Rogan. He’s clearly doing the same right now.
How long can he do so in our Cancel Culture age?