Neil Young is threatening to pull his music from Spotify over concerns that the company’s exclusive deal with podcaster Joe Rogan is helping fuel the anti-vaccine movement.
“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young wrote in a since-deleted open letter viewed by Rolling Stone.
“… JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Spotify bought exclusive rights to the Joe Rogan Experience in 2020 in a deal worth north of $100 million. The company has faced criticism over its relationship with its star podcaster for a number reasons since the ink dried on the deal, including controversies over Rogan’s penchant for making transphobic remarks and hosting guests critical of the transgender community.
Earlier this month, a coalition of nearly 300 medical professionals penned an open letter to Spotify urging the company to implement rules around misinformation after Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
“Dr. Malone used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have “hypnotized” the public,” that letter reads.
“Many of these statements have already been discredited. Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust. These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Rogan has sowed doubt about scientific consensus throughout the pandemic, discouraging young, healthy people from getting vaccinated and promoting Ivermectin, a veterinary drug the FDA cautioned the public against that Rogan used to treat his own case of COVID.
Whether Neil Young’s threat to pull his catalogue from Spotify inspires more public pressure from other figures in the entertainment world remains to be seen, but the comments are certainly drawing attention to the tech company’s lax attitude toward misinformation. Even after signing the deal with Rogan, the company likened its exclusive relationship with the world’s most popular podcast to any other content it hosts.
Now, reality might be setting in for Spotify that making editorial decisions over what content to pay for and promote comes with additional responsibility, particularly when that content contributes to a public health crisis.