for Young and old: why there can be only one winner
in Spotifys Joe Rogan battle -
February 1, 2022
Young removed his music from Spotify in protest at
misinformation about COVID aired on Joe
Rogans podcast. CREDIT: INVISION/AP
By Karl Quinn
a hurricane, Neil Youngs decision
to remove his music from Spotify over the dangerous
life-threatening COVID falsehoods aired on The
Joe Rogan Experience has ripped up the world we knew,
tossed it in the air and left us wondering where the
pieces will fall.
this protest by an old man whose fading cultural relevance
was perhaps encapsulated in the hashtag #whoisneilyoung
is but a storm in a teacup in a world full of coffee
drinkers. In other words, meh.
both be true? Well, yes.
76-year-old Canadian rocker is a genuine music industry
legend, whose most recent album, Barn, was released
last December and whose extensive back catalogue racked
up more than 6.1 million listens a month on Spotify
prior to last weeks order (delivered by his
label, Warners, on his behalf) to take it down. Since
then, fellow artists (and friends) Joni Mitchell and
Nils Lofgren have followed suit, while the unsubstantiated
rumour mill (or mere wishful thinking) suggests Bruce
Springsteen, Foo Fighters, even Paul McCartney could
some Spotify subscribers have taken to social media
to proclaim #istandwithneilyoung and to post proof
of their cancelled accounts. The numbers are small,
but the sentiment appeared to spook investors briefly
- pushing the market capitalisation of the company
down 12 per cent as the crisis unfolded last week.
boss Daniel Ek certainly takes the threat to his $US33
billion company seriously. On January 30, he
wrote on the companys For The Record blog
that Spotify was working to add a content advisory
to any podcast episode that includes a discussion
Rogan is one of the superstars of podcasting
would be directed to the companys COVID-19
Hub, a resource that provides easy access
to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared
by scientists, physicians, academics and public health
authorities around the world, as well as links to
trusted sources. He committed Spotify to a new
effort to combat misinformation, claiming the
content advisory was the first of its kind by
a major podcast platform.
Tuesday morning Rogan
had taken to Instagram to declare himself a
Neil Young fan and to promise to do my
best in the future to balance things out, and
the companys share price had largely recovered
(though it is still worth only slightly more than
half what it was a year ago).
thats not the only reason Rogan isnt going
to be cancelled any time soon.
a start, Spotify
reportedly paid Rogan around $US100 million in
May 2020 to move his podcast exclusively to its platform
from September that year. For that, they got access
to his back catalogue (more than 1700 episodes), his
subscribers (more than 9 million when the deal was
struck), and the opportunity to sell advertising to
his podcast, episodes of which regularly run for more
than two hours.
Spotify was being asked to take sides there was only
one crazy horse it was ever going to back, and that
(who contracted polio as a child, and has every right
to feel passionately about vaccines) has an audience,
but it is an ageing one. According to a survey conducted
by Media Monitors in January 2020, the
average age of Rogans listeners (71 per cent
male) is just 24.
dollars all fall in Rogans favour. Even if Youngs
music was earning the
highest rate Spotify pays - $0.0084 per stream
- those 6.1 million listens would bring in just $51,240
per month, 70 per cent of which goes to the copyright
holders. An ad on Rogans show is likely, according
to one recent report, to
sell for a minimum of $1 million.
broadly, Rogan also plays a crucial role in reshaping
the perception of what Spotify is - no longer a music
streaming platform, but a publisher of audio and video
content of all sorts.
all this, the reputational damage, subscriber loss
and share-price hit would have to be enormous for
Spotify to even consider siding with Young and co
in this dispute - and minus the defection of some
seriously big names (Adele, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber)
its hard to see that happening. The fact Young
has long been critical of the audio quality of the
service - and that Apple Music has moved swiftly to
position itself as the new streaming home of both
him and Mitchell - only adds to the unlikeliness of
such a move.
a guest on Rogans show, Dr Robert Malone helped
popularise an unfounded theory suggesting millions
of people have been hypnotised into believing
mainstream ideas about COVID-19. AP
and Mitchell are certainly not alone in being alarmed
that Rogan - who is now one of the most powerful voices
in media globally - is propagating controversial and
potentially dangerous views about COVID-19. On January
coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors,
and science communicators wrote to Spotify
to raise their concerns, and to call on the company
to immediately establish a clear and public
policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.
inevitably though, Young and Mitchell have been labelled
hypocrites over their intervention, with these former
flag bearers of the counterculture accused of trying
to deplatform Rogan. It barely matters that they havent
done this at all (they have merely removed their work
from the platform they shared with him) because the
issue has been framed (misleadingly) as an attempt
to stifle free speech, rather than as the act of protest
it really is.
the dust has settled and everyone can assess the needling
and the damage done, what are they likely to find?
Undoubtedly, Young has succeeded in putting a spotlight
on the presence of Rogans more problematic material,
and not just the stuff that pertains to COVID-19.
Probably that some people have cancelled Spotify and
will leave it cancelled. But possibly that the episode
has led to Rogan and his conspiracy theory
guests people who otherwise might not have found them.
is wealthy enough to be able to take the hit that
leaving the platform represents and powerful enough
to use the moment to make a point. In the end, it
might not change a thing, but there comes a time in
a persons life when youve just got to
take a stand.
the man says, its better to burn out than to
Sydney Morning Herald)