Neil Young might be known as many things—the Godfather of Grunge, Shakey, and the Man Who Clearly Made Some Deal With the Devil That Netted Him Daryl Hannah. What he’s not going to be known as moving forward is the artist who was bigger than Spotify. Some ultimatums obviously work better than others.
If you’ve been following this week’s news in the world of COVID-19 there’s been no shortage of headlines, including the Donald Trump Jr.-endorsed FluTruxClan convoy currently making its way to Ottawa. Another big one has been 76-year-old Neil Young demanding that Spotify choose between an enduring rock trailblazer or a wildly popular man with endlessly questionable views on COVID-19.
In case you need that in clearer terms, Spotify was asked to pick sides between Young and Joe Rogan. By Neil Young.
Famous for once boasting “I’m not a doctor, I’m a bleeping moron”, Rogan has used his high-profile Joe Rogan Experience podcast to question everything from vaccine passports to whether kids and teens should be jabbed to whether or not President Joe Biden faked his televised vaccination. All of which sees him regularly called out by news outlets that actually know what they are talking about.
Deciding, in the interest of public safety, that enough was enough, Young demanded this week Spotify either dump Rogan from its platform, or remove his sprawling back catalog from the service.
Today Spotify did the latter, telling Billboard, “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.”
One has to only look at Rogan’s audience reach to understand why the decision wasn’t exactly a difficult one for Spotify.
Nielsen media numbers for 2022 show that an average of 11 million listeners tune into each Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
That’s roughly 7.5 million more than the number two, three, and four most popular media shows in America, all of which are on Fox. (Speaking volumes about what’s wrong with the U.S., those three are Tucker Carlson Tonight with 3.24 million average viewers, The Five with 2.98 million, and walking hair atrocity Sean Hannity's Hannity with 2.94 million.)
But, in picking a fight he couldn't win, here’s where Young fans should really wonder what he’s been smoking, and where they can get some: in 2020 Rogan signed an exclusive deal with Spotify. Rogan took home a guaranteed US$100 million, and Spotify got the exclusive rights to the Joe Rogan Experience.
Throw Rogan overboard, and the service might as well have flushed all that money down ye olde shitter. Not to mention what it would cost to settle things in court after the inevitable suing for breach of contract.
Earlier this week Young posted a since-removed open letter to Spotify on his website that outlined his beef with: “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. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Today he’s not only lost that battle, but been kicked out a door that’s hitting him on the ass on his way out.
Which sucks for Spotify users with good taste because, really, what would you rather listen to?
The man who wrote “Powderfinger”, “After the Gold Rush”, or “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World”?
Or a loudmouth who once boasted “I’m not a respected source of information, even for me”. And who has had 270 top health officials in America sign a petition arguing that, through the pandemic “Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine.”
If you’re a Tucker Carlson fan, don’t answer that. As for the rest of you, this just might be the greatest song ever. And you can find it on Apple Music.