🎙Joe Rogan, Neil Young & the Vaccine Saga
Yesterday, Spotify removed legendary American singer Neil Young's entire catalog from their library, after his ultimatum over Joe Rogan's podcast content
Happy Friday everyone!
Last week, we broke down the numbers released by MIDiA research, around Spotify’s user growth decline and tried to make sense of its pivot from focusing on only music for its first decade & half, to now re-branding itself into an ‘audio’ first platform, with a specific focus on Podcasts 🎙
If the previous newsletter was data heavy and maybe assumed a few things, this week’s developments seem to put the seal on Spotify’s stance on which creative outlet they seem to value more 🤷♂️
Legendary American singer and classic rock band ‘Buffalo Springfield’ founder- Neil Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify over picking between his music on the streaming platform, or Joe Rogan’s wildly popular Podcast: ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’.
In a letter penned to his manager and label, which has since been taken down, Young went onto explain his stance:
“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. Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.
I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
This is not the first time that Spotify has faced flak for allowing Joe Rogan to voice his opinions on the vaccine.
Last month, a group of 270 doctors, physicians and scientists, signed an open letter asking Spotify to stop spreading Rogan’s baseless claims.
“With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence.
Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
I am far from an expert on the vaccines, but if one thing that this letter gets right, is the insane influence that Joe Rogan has captured over mainstream media culture 🗣
With Spotify breaking the bank to make Rogan exclusive on their platform for a figure north of $100M back in 2020, despite facing pressure from all sides to censor his podcast, it seems like they’re sticking to their guns.
And this isn’t really just about Young and his music, because he’s threatened to pull the plug on his entire catalog off Spotify, earlier as well 🔌
Young removed most of his music several years ago because he felt the sound quality on Spotify was too low, but he ultimately relented.
“That’s where people get music, 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.”
And this might be more important than you’d imagine.
I was musing on Twitter earlier this week with Dave Edwards from AudioMack, and it doesn’t take a lot to understand that with 8 Million artists on its platform, Spotify doesn’t really care about one disgruntled old-timer, even if he happens to be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
If you made it this far, why not share this with someone and help spread the word about us?
Our take on this?
As much as the media might play this out to be a case of Young vs Rogan, for Spotify-it’s about Podcasts vs Music
In a statement to The Washington Post, their official stance was:
“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-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.”
Let me paraphrase that for you:
“We’re shit-scared of pissing off Joe Rogan, and have bet the house on making Podcasts work for us, so if the cost for that is an artist with 6 Million monthly listeners, so be it”
And look, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to your guns.
I personally think that whether or not this was their intention, Spotify is scoring major brownie points with anyone who believes strongly about free-speech 💬
If you’ve listened to Rogan’s podcasts, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The guys is the best in the business at what he does, and even though his style might come off as abrasive in trying to push his point through, there aren’t many better in this medium; and you only have to look at the viewership numbers to see it for yourself 📺
I still feel that at what point do companies like Spotify take their scale for granted?
Today it’s Neil Young, but maybe another podcaster says something controversial to piss off Lil Nas X, and makes him pull out his content?
It’s unlikely that someone in their prime would cut the cords off their own growth, with Spotify being the biggest streaming platform of the lot, but in either case this sets a clear precedent for their priorities.
As far as Rogan and his apparent vaccine propaganda is concerned, I feel that fellow comedian Bill Burr said it best 👇🏻
I personally love Joe Rogan, and what he has done to democratise access to open and free-flowing conversation, with his podcasts giving an insight into the minds of some of the greatest humans alive.
However, I also see through his tendency to use ‘data’ and ‘science’ to fit his own narrative, especially around healthy young people not needing the vaccine- something he feels strongly about.
So while one part of me respects Spotify for enabling free speech, and letting him do his thing, it’s just sad to see Spotify making a clear statement to dunk on musicians even further, as if that battle wasn’t tough enough already.
Is this the tipping point when the incumbent becomes too big to see what’s brewing under the belly?
Only time will tell ⏰
Have a good weekend folks, and here’s a playlist of Neil Young’s greatest hits- curated on our platform, which still appreciates good music 😉