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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Home Technology Neil Young Won't Change Spotify's Thoughts About Joe Rogan

Neil Young Won’t Change Spotify’s Thoughts About Joe Rogan


Sometimes it is difficult to predict the future.

Other times it’s really easy: In the spring of 2020, it was unbelievable obvious it through Joe Rogan pays a ton of money for the exclusive rights to its podcast, Spotify would inevitably find itself under fire. Because much of Rogan’s appeal – we do not know how large his audience is, but double-digit millions seem reasonable – makes the court for controversy by conducting interviews with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Sure enough, the list of people criticizing Spotify over its Rogan agreement – and the content Rogan has since published – includes Spotify’s own employeeswho complained that his podcast was transphobic, and 270 doctors and other health expertswho wrote an open letter stating that Rogan’s podcasts were “mass misinformation opportunities” that “provoked mistrust in science and medicine” during the pandemic, because he hosted people like Robert Malone, ‘ an anti-vaxxer banned by Twitter.

And now rock star Neil Young, who said that doctors’ open letter opened his eyes to the “dangerous life-threatening Covid fakes found in Spotify programming,” his music took off from the service in protest.

Therefore. How big a deal is that?

Here is one data point: My brother-in-law just texted me to ask for recommendations for a new streaming service. Young’s argument – that by paying for Rogan’s podcast, “Spotify has become the home of life-threatening Covid misinformation. Lies sold for money” – went home for him. (For the record, you can still watch Young’s music on Amazon, Apple and every other streaming platform.)

Here’s a competitive data point – a list of prominent musicians who follow Young’s example and also take their catalogs from Spotify:

Of course, it is possible that things could change. When Neil Young made popular music in the 1960s and ’70s, famous musicians often made political arguments, and sometimes even endangered their own livelihoods by doing so. The Nixon administration, for example, placed John Lennon under FBI surveillance and at one point tried to deport him for his work to protest the Vietnam War.

But that level of activism is almost entirely absent in today’s series of popular musicians, who will sometimes tweet about things they do not like, but generally so late. Taylor Swift fought with Spotify, Apple and a music manager who bought the rights to her catalog, but those disputes were all about money and control, not ideology or vaccines.

To his credit, Young – a famous ghostly character who’s it complained about streaming for years is clear about what his withdrawal will mean: “I sincerely hope that other artists can make a move, but I can not really expect that to happen,” he wrote on his website this week.

So unless there is very of people like my brother-in-law, Spotify expects to do what he did every time people complained about their agreement with Rogan: nothing.

Spotify is betting billions of dollars that podcasting will be a significant business, and Rogan is the largest podcaster in the world. It will have to take much, much more than the absence of a legacy that has not released a popular song since 1989 to make it change course.

Spotify will of course contend with that characterization. It says it takes all of this stuff very seriously, and regularly reviews content on its service to see if it violates content policies, which it has not yet made public. Here, for the record, is the company’s statement:

“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. Along with that comes great responsibility to balance both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we have removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon. ”

It is worth pointing out here that Spotify, like other technology companies that distribute media, is fundamentally uncomfortable in making decisions about what kind of media it does and does not want to distribute. See, for example, his 2018 decision to remove musicians like R. Kelly – who has long been accused of sexual misconduct – from his playlists, but not from the service itself. After several weeks of criticism from artists and directors, it has abandoned the policy. (Kelly was convicted on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking three years later; his music stays on Spotify.)

And while Spotify often argues that, like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, it’s merely a neutral platform that connects creators with people who want to engage with the things that those creators do, that argument does not work in Rogan’s case: although he does not technically work for Spotify, he is paid a lot by them, to make good that you can hear nowhere else but Spotify.

But so far that distinction has not mattered. So often Spotify is asked about Rogan, and the company responds with the equivalent of a shrug. “For us, it’s about having a diverse voice of people, for a global audience,” Dawn Ostroff told me a year ago. “And he happens to be very popular.”

More questions are expected next week, when Spotify announces its quarterly earnings. Do not expect another answer.





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