EXPLAINER - What does Neil Young's protest for Spotify mean?

NEW YORK (AP), Neil Young vs Joe Rogan appears to be the most bizarre cultural clash.

EXPLAINER - What does Neil Young's protest for Spotify mean?

The protest by the 76-year old rock star over the coronavirus-related content of Rogan's Spotify podcast has sparked a heated debate about misinformation and freedom speech.

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After dozens of scientists and doctors wrote an open letter complaining to Spotify about Rogan's decision not to host a podcast conversation with Dr. Robert Malone (an infectious disease specialist banned from Twitter due to spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19), Malone protested. Malone is a hero among the anti-vaccination community.

Young claimed that Spotify was complicit in misinformation spreading. He told Spotify that Spotify could have Rogan's music or Young's podcast. Spotify then agreed to remove Young’s music from its service.


Slowly. Joni Mitchell stated that she was standing in solidarity with her and asked for her music not to be played. Nils Lofgren (a guitarist who plays with Bruce Springsteen and Crazy Horse) also spoke out. Brene Brown, a podcaster, also stated that she stopped listening to new podcasts but didn't say why.


Belly, a rock band, placed the message "Delete Spotify” in the background on its Spotify page. However you can still stream their music. It's not always easy to pull music from Spotify. Often, it is the record company that controls the stream, and not the artist.

Spotify is the market leader. According to Midia Research, Spotify accounted for 31 percent of 524 million global music streaming subscriptions during the second quarter 2021. This is more than twice the number of Apple Music. Many musicians complain that Spotify doesn't pay enough for their work. This is why Spotify isn't always popular.

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Mark Mulligan, Midia Research's cultural analyst, says that Spotify is a great source of cultural capital. "And that is what could be at risk if more artists tried to push their followers to other places."

Although Young and Mitchell's deaths may seem like a blow to the psychic, it would be more important if another artist took up the cause. Spotify's top 10 most-streamed artists are all from the past century. Eminem may be the exception.

These artists and Spotify would be much worse off if they took a stand similar to Young's.


Spotify's biggest source of revenue is music, but Rogan is its future.

Spotify paid over $100 million to license Rogan’s podcast, which is its most popular. He is the core of Spotify's strategy to be an audio company, not just a music business. Mulligan states that Spotify has more control over podcasts' potential revenue than it does music in the long-term.

The Swedish company wants to be the best podcasting platform. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollar since 2019 in podcast companies like Anchor and Gimlet, as well as top hosts such Rogan and Dax Shepard.

According to eMarketer, Spotify is set to surpass Apple as the largest podcast platform in America. It was the market with the most listeners.

Popular podcasters, especially the more outspoken, will likely be closely watching the protest to see if Spotify will uphold the right to free speech.


The company stated that it would add a warning to all podcasts discussing COVID-19. This will direct listeners to facts about the pandemic, as well as expert information from scientists and public health professionals. Rogan was not mentioned.

Spotify has been more transparent than ever in recent days about how it handles questionable content. The new policy is a good start, according to John Wihbey of Northeastern University, a professor and specialist on emerging technologies.

Wihbey states that it is not clear that anyone has successfully dealt with misinformation being spread via podcasts. Rogan's listeners will actually be able to hear an advisory and then search for other COVID information.

He says, "This could just be window dressing."

Rogan spoke out publicly late Sunday night, saying that he was sorry for his critics' feelings and that he didn't intend to cause any upset or spread misinformation. Rogan said that he enjoys having conversations with people from different perspectives and that some of the things that were once misinformation, such as cloth masks not being effective at protecting against COVID are now accepted.

He said that he could do better at having people disagree with controversial opinions like Malone's faster, so his listeners can hear the other perspective.

According to Colin Stutz (news director at Billboard magazine), Spotify's calculus can be changed if protests snowball. He said, "I think they just ride it out and hope it goes away."


Probably. In a video posted to Instagram, he spoke about his love for Mitchell's music. He said, "Chuck E's In Love' is a great track."

Whoops. It was Rickie Lee Jones.

Rogan is to be commended for quickly correcting himself via Twitter.


This report was contributed by Tali Arbel and Kristin M. Hale, Associated Press correspondents.

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