Is Spotify right removing Neil Young after Joe Rogan ultimatum?
- Joe Rogan is an American comedian, a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and host of his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
- Neil Young is a Canadian musician known for favorites “Old Man,” “Harvest Moon,” and “Heart of Gold.” In addition to his solo work, Young played alongside Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
- On January 27, 2022, Spotify removed Young from its platform after his open letter requesting to be taken off in protest of their support for Rogan’s alleged “spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines on his podcast.”
- Spotify released a statement to USA TODAY saying, “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.” The spokesperson said, “more than 20,000 COVID-related podcast episodes since the start of the pandemic.”
- In 2006, Neil Young performed in the “Freedom of Speech” tour, which “[rallied] the people to do something about the current state of the world.”
In choosing to remove Neil Young's catalog from its platform rather than address Joe Rogan's long history of misinformation, Spotify has shown that it only cares about money, even when those profits come at the risk of public health. Unfortunately, it's not surprising that Spotify wouldn't care about the concerns of an artist on its platform. The music streaming service has a long history of underpaying the very artists it profits from, which is a stark contrast to the one-hundred million dollar exclusivity deal the service has with Rogan. Young's ultimatum contrasts a beloved singer with a long history of speaking out against injustice against a crude provocateur who profits from selling sensational misinformation; it's a bad look for Spotify to side with Rogan.
Generally speaking, as a business, Spotify has the right to choose whatever content it wants to sell to its customers. Unfortunately, outrage, sensationalism, and conspiracies are great for creating engagement with content. The problem here is that the content, namely the Joe Rogan Experience, spreads misinformation, which during a pandemic has the potential to kill and prolong the living nightmare that has been plaguing society for nearly two years. It is simply unacceptable for a corporation to profit from selling content resulting in mass deception for those who listen, sowing distrust in public health organizations, and potentially leading to more death.
Finally, Spotify could have made some good faith concessions, such as removing only Rogan's COVID-related episodes, attaching warning labels, or some other creative response. Young seems to have only taken issue with Rogan's COVID content, not his other bizarre episodes, which run the gamut from transphobic to racist.
Spotify's decision to grant Neil Young his request to remove his music from their platform is warranted, directly responding to Young’s ultimatum. Spotify does not present Joe Rogan as a health expert, but comedian and martial arts expert. Rogan actually speaks about his lack of overall medical knowledge in an honest, self-deprecating way.
Because the virus is relatively new and unfamiliar, it’s not right to silence debate on views from scientists and doctors who are regularly coming to new conclusions and uncovering new insights. None of this is settled. With every new variant, the scientific method reveals new insights. After all, science is simply a process of understanding through 'experimental investigation,' and 'trusting the science' is not an excuse to shut down inquiry and debate. At one point, 'the science' didn't know about DNA or germ theory. While Rogan has taken issue with mask policies and vaccine mandates, he is not denying decades of scientific consensus. The matters being discussed are unfolding in real time, leaving podcasters like Rogan with the choice to commentate on it.
Some musicians present their unhealthy life habits in their songs, and Spotify still broadcasts them. If Young were to be calling out Spotify for being wrong to host content he finds harmful, then he should point to how they still host the music of artists like Eminmen, whose lyrics promote violence and dark themes.
The Joe Rogan Experience caters to an estimated 11 million monthly listeners with 200 million downloads per month and is considered the 'most popular' podcast in the world, while Young doesn't have nearly the same amount of followers or sway. Spotify's decision to keep Rogan's podcast on Spotify was strictly business and should be viewed as such.
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