Spotify sides with Joe Rogan, will remove Neil Young’s music after ultimatum

The predictable conclusion to yesterday’s standoff. Rogan’s the most influential podcaster in America, Young’s a legend who hasn’t been musically relevant for decades.

Oh, and Spotify paid $100 million for the rights to stream one of them. Guess which one they were less inclined to alienate.

An ultimatum from Taylor Swift or Beyonce to Spotify to yank Rogan’s anti-vax episodes from the platform would have been an interesting conundrum for the company. An ultimatum from Neil Young was a curiosity.

I’m torn between two takes on this. On the one hand, Sonny Bunch’s libertarian salute to markets:

On the other hand, Kat Rosenfield’s dystopian vision of tribalism devouring common culture:

Wherever you land on that, the anti-vaxxers win this round:

Spotify Technology SA is in the process of removing Neil Young’s music, according to people familiar with the matter, as the folk-rock star isn’t wavering in his objections to Joe Rogan’s podcast…

“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,” a Spotify spokesman said. The company has detailed content policies in place and has removed over 20,000 Covid-related podcast episodes since the start of the pandemic, he added.

“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” he said.

Fine by me. I already own “Decade” on CD. Bunch is right about physical media!

Young posted a statement about Spotify on his website this afternoon. In part:

Most of the listeners hearing the unfactual, misleading and false COVID misinformation on SPOTIFY are 24 years old, impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth.

These young people believe SPOTIFY would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out…

SPOTIFY has become the home of life threatening COVID misinformation. Lies being sold for money.

Rosenfield’s logic would have forced Spotify to stick with Rogan even if they hadn’t invested so much in him. If they paid the danegeld this time by agreeing to Young’s demand that they choose him over the other guy, there’d be no end potentially to other artists making “it’s either me or this other artist whom I detest” threats. That would have meant endless headaches for the company, chronically forced to weigh the comparative financial value of artists and the relative liabilities of their respective politics.

The way to deter ultimatums like that is to punish the first person who issues one by locking him out. So that’s what Spotify did, even though Young is right that Rogan is obnoxious for giving anti-vaxxers a platform.

Which is ironic, because he’s been no hero about standing up for good science in the past. This is a guy who cut an entire album a few years ago devoted to spooking people about genetically modified foods. Actual title: “The Monsanto Years.”

Young’s Monsanto album release and media tour doubled as activism—amplifying misinformation about GMOs to large mainstream audiences. He released a short anti-GMO documentary aptly named Seeding Fear. Most notably, and ridiculously, was an appearance on The Late Show with Steven Colbert.

Colbert asked Young about the scientific evidence showing GMOs were safe. But Young dismissed it out of hand, retorting: “That must be a Monsanto study that didn’t notice the terrible diseases and all of the things that are happening.” Then he pivoted to citing overzealous anti-GMO regulations in the EU as if it was scientific proof of anything…

Amplified by Young, the anti-biotechnology movement helped lay the foundations of the anti-COVID vaccine movement today, giving it an arsenal of misinformation to be repurposed, mainstream articles to be referenced, and misguided laws to be held up as proof of inherent dangers posed by safe technologies.

That’s the silver lining of Young’s Spotify showdown with Rogan. No matter who won, some bad science was destined to be removed from the platform.

Plus, Spotify might have figured that with anti-vax garbage available in other prominent media outlets…

…what was the harm in platforming a bit of it themselves? It’s not like America’s vaccination rate will leap 10 points if Rogan’s show goes dark. Tucker will still be there pumping out content, right?

I’ll leave you with Howard Stern, who seems to be okay with “censorship” in matters of life and death. Spotify yanking Rogan wouldn’t have amounted to “censorship,” but either way, it’s weird that a shock jock would want to dance on this particular slippery slope. Language warning here.

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