Spotify removes Neil Young’s music due to Joe Rogan controversy


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Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

Spotify removed Neil Young’s music catalogue from its streaming platform after the singer- songwriter protested against the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by podcaster Joe Rogan.

Young, who is no stranger to making political stances, decided to make a statement on the COVID-19 pandemic by requesting that his musical library be removed in protest of Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which he believes is spreading false information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Young had posted an original open letter on his own website requesting his management team and record label remove his music from the streaming service.

“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” Young wrote. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

Young’s request presented Spotify with an ultimatum: choose him or Rogan.

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both,” the singer wrote.

Young’s music removal comes as no shock towards his fan base, as he demanded his music be removed years prior due to “low sound quality.”

According to a 2019 Rolling Stone interview, he talked about his desire for people to hear his music no matter what challenges they may go through.

“I want people to hear my music no matter what they have to get through to do it. I’m just trying to make it, so they hear a lot more and enjoy it a lot more but sell it for the same price because music is music,” Young said.

He has stated that he is not trying to “cancel” Rogan and has made his support for freedom of speech clear. In a letter on “The Neil Young Archives,” he responded to outside voices who feel that his actions are attacking Rogan’s First Amendment rights as a podcaster.

“I support free speech,” he wrote. “I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front-line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.”

Spotify released a statement on the surrounding controversy saying that they have removed 20,000 podcast episodes that discussed COVID-19 misinformation.

“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,” a Spotify spokesperson said.

“We have detailed content policies in place, and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes 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.”

Young was later joined by fellow music artist Joni Mitchell in removing their music from Spotify.

“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify,” the Canadian singer-songwriter writes in a post on her website.

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

Vaccine misinformation has been another symptom of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that the Center for Disease Control, the media and many front-line medical officials have been fighting. While he is not the only party accused of spreading misinformation, Rogan has become the face of it.

An open letter penned by over a thousand doctors and medical professionals to Spotify urges the company to crack down on misinformation.

Rogan has had doctors on his podcast, including Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone. In the past, the two doctors have reportedly made multiple unverified claims relating to the pandemic.

The chances of Rogan’s podcast being shut down completely is slim to none since it has been one of Spotify’s most popular shows for the past two years. Rogan also has a distribution deal with Spotify that was signed in 2020, worth an estimated $100 million.

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek, said that his company is not dictating the content of its creators. Ek spoke to Axios in 2021 and explained that the streaming platform does not carry any editorial responsibility for Rogan. Ek went as far as to compare Rogan to “really well-paid rappers.”

Rogan has responded to the allegations of spreading misinformation, noting that podcasts are conversations, which can often mean that what he says can be spontaneous.

“And that’s why some of my ideas are not that prepared or fleshed out because I’m literally having them in real time, but I do my best and they’re just conversations, and I think that’s also the appeal of the show,” Rogan said in an Instagram post.

He went on to apologize to Spotify and thank it for its support.

The podcast mega mogul has gone as far as to take issue with his COVID-centered episodes being categorized as “misinformation.”

“I do not know if they’re right,” Rogan continued. “I don’t know because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m just a person who sits down and talks to people and has conversations with them. Do I get things wrong? Absolutely. I get things wrong, but I try to correct them whenever I get something wrong.”

His final points touched on how he is open to having conversations with people who have different opinions than his.