It’s going to take much more than Neil Younger to alter Spotify’s thoughts about Joe Rogan


Neil Young onstage playing guitar.
Neil Younger performing in 2019. | Paul Bergen/Redferns

Different musicians aren’t boycotting the music service. Will you?

Typically it’s arduous to foretell the longer term.

Different instances it’s very easy: Again within the spring of 2020, it was extremely apparent that by paying Joe Rogan a ton of cash for the unique rights to his podcast, Spotify would inevitably discover itself underneath fireplace. As a result of an enormous a part of Rogan’s attraction — we don’t understand how large his viewers is, however double-digit tens of millions appears cheap — is courting controversy by interviewing the likes of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Certain sufficient, the checklist of individuals criticizing Spotify over its Rogan deal — and the content material Rogan has put out since then — contains Spotify’s personal workers, who complained that his podcast is transphobic, and 270 docs and different well being specialists, who wrote an open letter saying Rogan’s podcasts have been “mass-misinformation occasions” which were “upsetting mistrust in science and drugs” in the course of the pandemic, for internet hosting the likes of Robert Malone, an anti-vaxxer who’s been banned by Twitter.

And now rock star Neil Younger, who mentioned these docs’ open letter opened his eyes to the “harmful life-threatening Covid falsehoods present in Spotify programming,” has taken his music off the service in protest.

So. How large a deal is that this?

Right here’s one knowledge level: My brother-in-law simply texted me asking for suggestions for a brand new streaming service. Younger’s argument — that by paying for Rogan’s podcast, “Spotify has develop into the house of life-threatening Covid misinformation. Lies being bought for cash” — has hit house for him. (For the file, you possibly can nonetheless discover Younger’s music on Amazon, Apple, and each different streaming platform.)

Right here’s a competing knowledge level – an inventory of outstanding musicians following Younger’s lead and pulling their catalogs from Spotify as nicely:

It’s potential, in fact, that issues might change. Again when Neil Younger was making common music within the 1960s and ’70s, well-known musicians routinely made political arguments, and generally even put their very own livelihoods in danger in doing so. The Nixon administration, as an illustration, put John Lennon underneath FBI surveillance and at one level tried to deport him due to his work protesting the Vietnam Warfare.

However that stage of activism is sort of fully absent from as we speak’s lineup of common musicians, who will generally tweet about issues they don’t like however typically depart it at that. Taylor Swift has fought with Spotify, Apple, and a music supervisor who purchased the rights to her catalog, however these disputes have been all about cash and management, not ideology or vaccines.

To his credit score, Younger — a famously cantankerous character who has complained about streaming for years — is clear-eyed about what his pullout will imply: “I sincerely hope that different artists could make a transfer, however I can’t actually count on that to occur,” he wrote on his web site this week.

So until there are lots of individuals like my brother-in-law, count on Spotify to do what it has accomplished each time individuals have complained about their take care of Rogan: nothing.

Spotify is betting billions of {dollars} that podcasting might be a significant enterprise, and Rogan is the largest podcaster on the planet. It must take a lot, rather more than the absence of a legacy act that hasn’t launched a preferred track since 1989 to get it to alter course.

Spotify will take concern with that characterization, in fact. It says it takes all these items very critically, and routinely examines content material on its service to see if it violates content material insurance policies, which it has but to reveal publicly. Right here, for the file, is the corporate’s assertion:

“We would like all of the world’s music and audio content material to be obtainable to Spotify customers. With that comes nice duty in balancing each security for listeners and freedom for creators. We’ve got detailed content material insurance policies in place and we’ve eliminated over 20,000 podcast episodes associated to COVID-19 for the reason that begin of the pandemic. We remorse Neil’s resolution to take away his music from Spotify, however hope to welcome him again quickly.”

It’s value mentioning right here that Spotify, like different tech firms that distribute media, is essentially uncomfortable making selections about what sort of media it does and doesn’t wish to distribute. See, as an illustration, its 2018 resolution to take away musicians like R. Kelly — who had lengthy been accused of sexual misconduct — from its playlists however not from the service itself. After a couple of weeks of criticism from artists and managers, it deserted the coverage. (Kelly was convicted on racketeering and intercourse trafficking prices three years later; his music stays on Spotify.)

And whereas Spotify typically argues that, similar to YouTube, Twitter, or Fb, it’s merely a impartial platform that connects creators with individuals who wish to interact with the stuff these creators make, that argument doesn’t work in Rogan’s case: Whereas he’s not technically working for Spotify, he’s very a lot getting paid by them, to make stuff you possibly can’t hear wherever however Spotify.

However thus far that distinction hasn’t mattered. Now and again, Spotify will get requested about Rogan, and the corporate solutions with the equal of a shrug. “For us, it’s about having a various voice of individuals, for a worldwide viewers,” content material chief Daybreak Ostroff advised me a yr in the past. “And he occurs to stay wildly common.”

Count on extra inquiries to come up subsequent week, when Spotify broadcasts its quarterly earnings. Don’t count on a special reply.

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