Neil Young wasn’t bluffing.
Spotify said on Wednesday that it had begun removing the singer’s music from the streaming service, two days after he briefly posted a public letter calling on Spotify to choose between him and Joe Rogan, the star podcast host who has been accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines.
Young’s challenge to Spotify has become a high-profile, if unexpected, flash point in the battle over misinformation and free speech online. It raised questions about the ability of performing artists to control what their work is heard.
In a statement posted to his website on Wednesday, Young called Spotify “the home of life threatening Covid misinformation.” He added: “Lies being sold for money.”
His criticism of Rogan — a comedian and actor who has become Spotify’s most popular podcast host, sometimes speaking at great length with controversial figures — came after a group of hundreds of scientists, professors and public health experts asked Spotify to take down an episode of Rogan’s show from Dec. 31. That episode, featuring Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious-disease expert, promoted “several falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines,” according to the group’s public letter, which was issued on Jan. 10.
Spotify said in a statement on Wednesday: “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. This comes with great responsibility to ensure that both creators and listeners are safe. 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,” the service added, “but hope to welcome him back soon.”
Young’s most popular songs, like “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon” and “Old Man,” have been radio staples for decades, and have attracted hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. Young said Wednesday that Spotify accounted for 60 percent of his music streams around the globe.
Young’s music was expected to be fully removed from Spotify within hours. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Young’s songs were being removed from Spotify.
In his original letter, which Young addressed to his label, Warner Records, and his manager, he said: “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform. I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform.”
He added: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
That letter was removed from Young’s website soon after it was posted, though it drew wide news media attention.
Rogan, a comedian, actor and producer, signed a Spotify exclusive podcast deal in 2020. However, Spotify has not confirmed the figure. His show is the most-listened to on Spotify.
Spotify has supported Rogan in the past, even after an episode featuring conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. “We want creators to create,” Daniel Ek, the chief executive and co-founder of Spotify, told The Financial Times then. “It’s what they do best. We’re not looking to play a role in what they should say.”
Spotify has 318 million monthly listeners around the world, including 172 million who pay for subscriptions, according to the company’s most recent financial disclosures.
Young has in the past removed his music from streaming services only to have it quietly restored. After making complaints about streaming’s quality, Young took his music off all major audio streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music. But it was quickly added back.
Jenny GrossContributed reporting
Source: NY Times