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Spotify Turfs Neil Young Over Joe Rogan Censorship Ultimatum: WSJ

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: January 27, 2022
Neil Young will no longer exist on Spotify after the 76-year-old's ultimatum to censor podcast giant Joe Rogan or lose his music resulted in a notorious case of self-deplatforming.
Singer Neil Young performs onstage at The 2013 MusiCares Person Of The Year Gala Honoring Bruce Springsteen at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Young issued an ultimatum to streaming giant Spotify to either censor the Joe Rogan podcast over COVID-19 “misinformation” or lose him. Spotify clapped back in response. (Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Popular music streaming app Spotify is in the process of removing Neil Young’s music from its offerings after the pop music icon gave the streaming service an ultimatum earlier in the week: censor the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, or part ways with me. 

The Wall Street Journal reported Young had been given the ax on Jan. 26 when it published a statement by a Spotify spokesperson, “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators,” they stated, but added, “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

The controversy emerged when Young posted his importunity to the streaming giant on his website a day earlier, which stated, “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines—potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.”

Young has since removed the letter from his website, according to an earlier article by WSJ.

Warner Music, Young’s record label, formally instructed Spotify to remove the artist from its platform, said WSJ.

In January of 2021, Young sold the rights to 1,180 of his songs for $150 million USD to Hipgnosis Songs Fund, stated the BBC, who lauded the purchase as a “stable investment.”

Rogan, who is currently Spotify’s largest podcaster and tops Apple’s charts, has been the target of a wave of cancel culture after contracting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in October after holding fast to his personal decision to not follow the political trend of accepting vaccination.

Instead, Rogan relied on an early treatment regime that utilized Ivermectin, monoclonal antibodies, and other preventatives and therapeutics to successfully combat SARS-CoV-2.

In the time following, Rogan has taken an increasingly aggressive and firm stance towards the establishment mandatory vaccination narrative and political measures purporting to combat the spread of the disease. 

Notably, Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone, one of the main contributors towards the messenger RNA technology used in today’s novel gene therapy-based vaccines, just days after he was permanently suspended by Twitter after lauding a publication that severely criticized the clinical trials Pfizer relied on for its Emergency Use Authorization.

Malone’s appearance was specifically cited by Young in his tirade.

Rogan has recently hosted other figures unpopular with the political left, such as formerly tenured University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who recently resigned over the institution’s pushing of DIE (diversity, inclusion, equity) provisions.

In May of 2020, WSJ reported that Rogan had inked an enormous $100 million USD contract with Spotify “according to a person familiar with the matter,” a notable development as Rogan left Alphabet’s lucrative YouTube platform.

In Young’s since-deleted letter, he took aim exactly at Rogan’s exceptional popularity, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, 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.”

“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.”

After being rejected by Spotify and removing his original letter, WSJ said Young doubled down on his vitriol in additional statements published on his personal website, “I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the Spotify platform and stop supporting Spotify’s deadly misinformation about Covid.”

Young was sober enough, however, to understand that he “can’t really expect that to happen,” as he added that Spotify represented 60 percent of his listener base.

The singer’s wares were attributed to 2.4 million followers and 6 million plays per month on the platform.

Forbes noted on Jan. 26 that the phrase “Who is Neil Young?” was trending on social media after the 76-year-old’s tantrum only resulted in a notable case of self-inflicted de-platforming.