Spotify will remove Neil Young’s music from its platform, per his request, following his objections to Joe Rogan’s statements about the Covid-19 vaccine on his Spotify-hosted show. The music is expected to be removed later Wednesday.
A rep for Spotify said in a statement to Variety: “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.”
Young posted a lengthy statement on his website, which levels his accusations at Spotify and does not mention Rogan (and makes some unusual assertions about the platform’s audience), shortly after the move was confirmed.
“Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID,” he wrote. “I first learned of this problem by reading that 200-plus doctors had joined forces, taking on the dangerous life-threatening COVID falsehoods found in Spotify programming. Most of the listeners hearing the factual, misleading and false COVID information on Spotify are 24 years old, impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth.
“These young people believe Spotify would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong. I Knew I had to try to point that out.”
He notes later in the post that he actually does not have the ability to make such a move himself, as control over music uploaded to streaming services is determined by the rights-holder, which in his case is Warner Records, formerly known as Warner Bros. Records.
“Before I told my friends at Warner Bros [sic] about my desire to leave the Spotify platform, I was reminded by my own legal forces that contractually I did not have the control of my music to do that. I announced I was leaving anyway,” he continues. “I want to thank my truly great and supporting record company Warner Brothers [sic] – Reprise Records, for standing with me in my decision to pull all my music from Spotify. Thank you!”
Young continues in this manner before concluding, “I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the Spotify platform and stop supporting Spotify’s deadly misinformation about COVID.
“In the name of Truth — Neil Young”
Contacted by Variety, reps for Hipgnosis Songs Management, which last year acquired 50% of Young’s worldwide copyright and income interests in his entire song catalog, and Warner Records did not immediately comment.
Young’s music is available on other streaming services and his paid website, Neil Young Archives, for between $19.99 (“Classic”) and $99.99 (“Patron”) per year.
While Young has spoken out about many political issues over the course of his six-decade career, his objections to Rogan’s statements about the vaccine have gained extraordinary traction since he posted a since-removed open letter late Monday to his management, Lookout, and label, Warner Records, demanding his music be removed from Spotify due to the streaming service’s distribution partnership with Rogan. In the letter, he accused Rogan and Spotify of spreading false information regarding COVID-19 and vaccines.
“Please immediately inform Spotify that I am actively canceling all my music availability on Spotify as soon as possible,” he wrote. “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading false information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.
“Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule,” the statement continued. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately today that I want all of my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Some public health officials have also urged Spotify to take action against Rogan, accusing the massively popular “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast of possessing a “concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Young has removed his music from Spotify before, but not over political issues: In 2015 he pulled his entire catalog from all streaming services over what he deemed inadequate sound quality. “I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution” he wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It’s bad for my music.” He launched his own high-quality music player, Pono, which struggled before Young shut it down in 2017 and instead focused on his Archives website.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” is currently the most-listened to podcast on the audio streaming service. Rogan signed a $100 million deal in May 2020, giving Spotify exclusive distribution rights (though not ownership of) his podcast.