Spotify: Profit Over Principle

By Sasha Chajet-Wides

On January 24th, countless Spotify listeners opened up their app to enjoy their favorite music, but when they clicked on their playlists, some songs were missing. Those songs were all by 77-year-old rockstar Neil Young. Young was estimated to make $754,000 annually from Spotify and had millions of monthly listeners on the platform. Following Neil Young, other artists pulled their music off of the app as well– such as Joni Mitchell, folk group Crosby Stills and Nash, India.Arie, and Mary Trump. So, why did they take off their content?

Spotify is not just a music app, it also has podcasts. From true crime to comedy to movie reviews there really is a wide variety of shows to choose from. One of the most popular podcasts on Spotify is The Joe Rogan Experience, which is hosted by Joe Rogan, a comedian and sports commentator. Joe Rogan’s podcast has about 11 million listens per episode, and he has a $100 million exclusive deal with Spotify. Young and the other artists who took their music off were angry that Spotify was keeping Rogan’s podcast on the platform, specifically because of the content in the show. 

On “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Rogan expresses views of opposing the COVID-19 vaccine and encourages people to not get vaccinated. He also spreads misinformation about the pandemic that, when listened to by 11 million people, can become a serious public health and safety risk. Even if you are vaccinated, we have all heard about how herd immunity is extremely important in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Rogan’s audience will likely take his words to heart and put others in danger by not getting vaccinated. He has also said several racial slurs, and despite apologizing for that, as well as for spreading misinformation about COVID, Rogan hasn’t changed his content. Neil Young and the other artists used their status to urge Spotify to ban Joe Rogan or at least censor him. When he left, Young said “They can have Rogan or Young, not both.” Many other people have supported the artists who’ve taken their music off Spotify, and Neil Young has even seen increases in both his on-demand streaming and album sales since he took his music off.

On set at the Joe Rogan Experience.

It is estimated that Spotify lost between two and four billion dollars after Neil Young took his music off, according to Newsweek. Additionally, in late January, the Spotify stock went down six percent within two days due to people who dropped support for the company because of Spotify’s refusal to take down Rogan’s podcast.

The CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, has condemned Rogan’s anti-vaxx theories but has defended him for his podcast and said that it is his freedom of speech. Neil Young has recently spoken out and said that Ek is more of a problem than Rogan because he has the power to stop this and hasn’t because he is making money off of the show. Ek and Spotify have taken down some of Rogan’s episodes but have not censored him, the show, or even ended their exclusive contract. As a Spotify user, supporter of science, and lover of Joni Mitchell, I am appalled by Joe Rogan as well as Daniel Ek for choosing money over safety and the spread of truth.

Hopefully, Joe Rogan will soon be removed from Spotify. After that removal, artists can come back onto the platform knowing they have impacted our country by helping correct the dangerous lies that Rogan has shared with his supporters.