“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” wrote artist Neil Young earlier this week, as he asked for his music to be removed from Spotify in protest at the platform’s indulgence of podcaster Joe Rogan’s views on Covid-19 and vaccines.
Spotify is choosing to have Rogan. “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” said the company in a statement. “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 since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
As we’ve pointed out before, this is not just a question of giving Rogan his freedom of speech: it’s about the way Spotify both funds and promotes what he and his guests are choosing to say. It’s something that goes beyond Covid-19: this week, Rogan had far-right academic Jordan Peterson on to compare gender dysphoria to historical “psychological contagions” for example.
Neither Neil Young nor Spotify will suffer greatly from his music being unavailable on the service – their respective business models do not depend on the other – but if the publicity encourages other, bigger (in streaming terms) artists to follow suit, Spotify will have a problem on its hands.