• Justin Friedberg

Singing Out Against Spotify

Emperor Spotify, the ruler of the music streaming industry, has a problem on its hands; the dissatisfaction of some listeners has spread to the artists themselves. Neil Young, a famous musician, has started a protest against the dictator by taking his music off the platform. His ever-growing list of co-conspirators includes Joni Mitchell and his former bandmates in Crosby, Stills, & Nash. So what has caused such sudden animosity for the company?



“SPOTIFY has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID…All my music is available on SPOTIFY, being sold to these young people, people who believe what they are hearing because it is on SPOTIFY, and people like me are supporting SPOTIFY by presenting my music there."

In reality, the hatred for Spotify did not ‘suddenly’ emerge. Just as in any war, there are long-term and short-term causes, and opposition to Spotify has been building up for a while.

However, let’s start with the short-term cause, the one cited by Neil Young as the primary reason for pulling his music off the platform. In a statement posted to his website on January 26th, Young said: “SPOTIFY has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID…All my music is available on SPOTIFY, being sold to these young people, people who believe what they are hearing because it is on SPOTIFY, and people like me are supporting SPOTIFY by presenting my music there. I realized I could not continue to support SPOTIFY's life threatening misinformation to the music loving public.”


“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Without saying his name, people immediately knew who Young was referring to when he talked about ‘public misinformation’: Joe Rogan. In fact, in a since-deleted letter posted two days before his official statement, Young makes his criticism towards him, to put it lightly, very clear: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”


Joe Rogan, a comedian and UFC commentator, created his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience in 2009 in which he has discussions with a variety of different guests, including celebrities and anybody else he finds interesting. Since then he has undoubtedly become the king of the podcasting world, with, according to The Verge, two hundred million monthly downloads in 2019.


In May of 2020, Rogan signed an estimated one hundred million dollar contract with Spotify to exclusively release his podcast there. He has become a divisive figure for his comments on Covid conspiracy theories, usage of alternative treatments when he tested positive for Covid in September of 2021, interviewing of questionable guests on his podcast, and a compilation of unearthed clips of him making racist remarks.


“... 270 doctors, physicians, and science educators signed an open letter asking Spotify to stop spreading Rogan’s baseless claims.”

In early January, according to Rolling Stone, “... 270 doctors, physicians, and science educators signed an open letter asking Spotify to stop spreading Rogan’s baseless claims.” In the letter, they said Rogan “discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy,’ promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.” The signers of the letter called for “Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform.”


“I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.” - CEO Daniel Elk

Though it removed more than twenty thousand of his episodes about Covid, Spotify has mostly stood behind Rogan. According to The Washington Post, in an internal memo, Spotify CEO Daniel Elk wrote, “I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”


However, Joe Rogan is definitely not the only reason people aren’t satisfied with Spotify. One of the long-term causes of this conflict has been how much Spotify pays its artists, and the numbers speak for themselves. While other platforms like Apple Music pay $6.77 per 1000 streams, Spotify only pays $2.29 per 1000 streams. CEO Daniel Elk has also been criticized for investing over eighty million dollars in an AI military defense technology company.


Though Neil Young's actions have done little in the short term, they have begun a public discussion about Spotify that has been ignored for far too long. It seems that Young is beginning to take his lyric “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” quite seriously.