What will Neil Young’s Joe Rogan protest mean for Spotify?

Neil Young vs. Joe Rogan seems the strangest of cultural clashes. Still, the 76-year-old is a rock star protest about coronavirus-related content on Rogan’s popular Spotify podcast has sparked a heated debate over misinformation and free speech, and has crushed a streaming service that has become the central way millions of people around the world experience music.

“Rockin ‘in the Free World”? Not on Spotify. No longer. Here’s what’s happening.

Why is Young overwhelmed?

His protest came after dozens of doctors and scientists wrote an open letter to Spotify, complaining about Rogan’s decision to have a podcast discussion with Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist banned from Twitter for spreading false information about COVID-19. Malone has become a hero in the anti-vaccination community.

Saying that Spotify was complicit in spreading false information, Young told the company that it could have its music as Rogan’s podcast – “not both.” Spotify agreed to remove his music from service.

Is the protest widespread?

Slowly. Joni Mitchell said she stood in solidarity and also asked to remove her music. So did Nils Lofgren, a guitarist who plays in one of Young’s backing bands, Crazy Horse, and also with Bruce Springsteen. Podcaster Brene Brown also said she stopped new podcasts without saying exactly why.

Graham Nash, Young’s former bandmate at Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, said Tuesday he wanted to pull off his solo music, according to several reports Tuesday. India.arie said on Instagram that “Neil Young opened a door I had to go through,” although she said she was also concerned about unspecified Rogan comments about race.


Joe Rogan responds to COVID misinformation …

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The rock band Belly put the message “Delete Spotify” in the background of their Spotify page, but you could still stream their music. Attracting music from Spotify is not necessarily easy – it’s often the record company, not the artist, who controls it.

Spotify dominates the market. It had 31% of the 524 million global music streaming subscriptions in the second quarter of 2021, more than double that of Apple Music in second place, according to Midia Research. Spotify is not always popular with musicians, many of whom complain that it does not pay them enough for their work.

“Spotify has an enormous amount of cultural capital that is self-sufficient,” says Mark Mulligan of Midia Research. “And that’s the danger as more artists essentially tried to push their fans to other places.”

While the loss of Young and Mitchell may be a psychic blow, what really matters is when a more current artist takes up the cause. Everyone in Spotify’s top 10 list of most streamed artists, led by Drake’s 44 billion, is from the turn of the century, with the possible exception of Eminem, who first became popular in 1999.

For those artists, and for Spotify, a position like that of Young would have much more serious financial consequences.

Why does Rogan choose over Young?

Music accounts for the vast majority of Spotify’s revenue, but Rogan represents its future.

Spotify has reportedly paid more than $ 100 million to license Rogan’s podcast, his most popular. He is the center of the company’s strategy to become an audio company instead of just a music company. In the long run, Spotify has more control over potential revenue from podcasts than for music, Mulligan says.

The Swedish company aims to be the premier podcasting platform, and has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars since 2019 to buy podcast companies like Gimlet and Anchor, and sign top hosts like Rogan and Dax Shepard.


Spotify takes down Neil Young’s music

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Spotify was set to take Apple last year as the largest podcast platform in the United States, the world’s largest market, according to the number of listeners, according to research firm eMarketer.

Popular podcasters, especially the outspoken ones, are likely to watch this protest very closely to see if Spotify has the right to speak freely.

What is Spotify doing to silence the protests?

The company announced that it would add a warning before any podcasts discussing COVID-19, listeners focus on factual information about the pandemic of scientists and public health experts. It did not discuss Rogan specifically.

Spotify has shown more transparency in recent days than it has ever had on how to deal with dubious content, and the new policy is a good first step, says John Wihbey, a professor at Northeastern University and specialist in emerging technologies.

However, it is not clear that anyone has effectively addressed the problem of misinformation spread through podcasts, Wihbey says. Will Rogan’s audience really listen to advice and then hunt for other COVID information?

“This could just be window dressing,” he says.

Rogan spoken publicly for the first time late Sunday, saying he regrets that his critics feel the way they do, and it was not his intention to disturb anyone or spread misinformation. He said he enjoys talking to people who offer different perspectives, and said that some things were once considered misinformation – that dust masks, for example, were not good enough to protect against COVID – are now being accepted.

But he said he could do a better job with people who oppose controversial opinions like Malone’s, faster, so that his listeners will hear the other perspective.

The calculation for Spotify could change as the protest snowballs, says Colin Stutz, news director at Billboard magazine. “I think they’re just riding this and hoping it goes away,” he said.

Should Rogan listen to more music?

Probably. He talks in a video posted on Instagram about how he loves Mitchell’s music. “‘Chuck E’s in Love’ is a great song,” he said.

Oops. That was Rickie Lee Jones.

To Rogan’s credit, he quickly corrected himself on Twitter.


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