Veteran singer-songwriter Neil Young recently urged “other artists and record companies” to “move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY’s deadly misinformation about COVID.”
Some of his music peers have answered the call.
On Jan. 26, Young made good on his threat to remove his songs from Spotify unless the streaming service agreed to cut ties with controversial podcast host Joe Rogan, who has drawn criticism for fueling conspiracy theories about COVID-19 treatments and vaccines on the wildly popular “Joe Rogan Experience.”
Spotify isn’t new to controversy. Here’s a rundown of the music streamer’s history of feuds with artists and songwriters over royalties, privacy and more.
When Spotify failed to drop Rogan, Young pulled the trigger.
“Spotify represents 60% of the streaming of my music to listeners around the world. ... Yet my [record label] stood with me, recognizing the threat the COVID misinformation on SPOTIFY posed to the world — particularly for our young people who think everything they hear on SPOTIFY is true,” Young declared on his website.
“Unfortunately it is not.”
Others have since followed the “Heart of Gold” hitmaker’s lead — most notably singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, 78, who is on the same label as Young, 76, and entered the folk-rock scene around the same time as her contemporary.
Joni Mitchell, longtime friend of Neil Young, has asked to have her music removed from Spotify, in protest of podcaster Joe Rogan’s anti-vaccine misinformation.
The mounting opposition to Spotify has sparked rumors that various big names — from Foo Fighters and Barry Manilow to Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle — will be the next to walk. But none of that speculation has come to fruition yet.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement that denounced the “global misinformation crisis” and revealed that they contacted Spotify last year “about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.”
“We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis,” the royal couple added. “We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.”
Amid rising pressure from musicians, healthcare professionals and Spotify users alike, the head of the streaming giant released a statement Jan. 30 addressing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and published the official Spotify rulebook “to help our users understand how Spotify assesses all content on our platform.”
Young is no stranger to taking on powerful interests, whether it’s music gatekeepers, soft-drink companies or his own record label.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” said Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek.
“We take this seriously and will continue to partner with experts and invest heavily in our platform functionality and product capabilities for the benefit of creators and listeners alike. That doesn’t mean that we always get it right, but we are committed to learning, growing and evolving.”
See who else has renounced Spotify in the wake of Young’s anti-Rogan stand.
Spotify paid millions to lure Joe Rogan but now faces pressure from more than 200 doctors to hold him to account for spreading misinformation about COVID vaccines on his podcast.
On Jan. 28, Mitchell became the first major music figure to side with Young by moving to scrub her catalog from Spotify.
“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
Mitchell also cited an open letter signed by hundreds of doctors and medical professionals who warn that Rogan’s podcast promotes “baseless conspiracy theories and has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Jan. 29, guitarist Lofgren of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band announced that he had pulled 27 years’ worth of music from Spotify.
“Neil and I go back 53 years,” Lofgren said in a statement on his website.
“We encourage all musicians, artists and music lovers everywhere, to stand with us all, and cut ties with Spotify. ... Pick up your sword and start swinging! Neil always has. Stand with him, us (Joni Mitchell!), and others. It’s a powerful action YOU can all take NOW, to honor truth, humanity and the heroes risking their lives every day to save ours.”
Bestselling author and researcher Brown — who recently signed an exclusive multiyear deal with Spotify — stalled her podcasts “Unlocking Us” and “Dare to Lead” three days after Young left the platform.
“I will not be releasing any podcasts until further notice,” Brown tweeted Jan. 29. “To our #UnlockingUs and #DaretoLead communities, I’m sorry and I’ll let you know if and when that changes. Stay awkward, brave, and kind.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded to Neil Young and others removing their music from the platform over COVID-19 misinformation spread on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast.
Wendy Zukerman and Blythe Terrell
Zukerman, the host and executive producer for “Science Vs,” and Terrell, an editor for the science podcast, plan to limit their production on new episodes because they do not believe Spotify’s rules regarding misinformation go far enough.
“Until Spotify implements stronger methods to prevent the spread of misinformation on the platform, we will no longer be making new Science Vs episodes, except those intended to counteract misinformation being spread on Spotify,” they wrote in a letter to Ek, posted on Twitter on Monday.
“Science Vs,” which is exclusive to Spotify, looks at the science behind topics including pandemics.
Singer-songwriter Arie announced Jan. 31 that she had decided to yank her music and podcast “SongVersation” from Spotify after “Young opened a door that I MUST walk through.”
“I believe in freedom of speech,” Arie wrote in an Instagram statement. “However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons OTHER than his Covid interviews. FOR ME IT’S ALSO HIS language around race. What I am talking about is RESPECT — who gets it and who doesn’t.”
The R&B artist also called out Spotify for “paying musicians a Fraction of a penny? and [Rogan] $100M?” In 2020, the streaming giant struck a multiyear licensing deal with Rogan that is estimated to be worth $100 million.
“This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep,” Arie wrote. “I’m tired.”
Nash declared his support for his Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmate Feb. 1 after “having heard the COVID disinformation spread by Joe Rogan on Spotify.”
“I am requesting that my solo recordings be removed from the service,” Nash said in a statement. “There is a difference between being open to varying viewpoints on a matter and knowingly spreading false information which some 270 medical professionals have derided as not only false but dangerous.
Graham Nash and India Arie are removing their music from Spotify after Neil Young left the platform because of COVID disinformation and Joe Rogan.
“Likewise, there is a difference between misinformation, in which one is unaware that what is being said is false, versus disinformation which is knowingly false and intended to mislead and sway public opinion. The opinions publicized by Rogan are so dishonest and unsupported by solid facts that Spotify becomes an enabler in a way that costs people their lives.”
The bestselling author of “Bad Feminist” announced Feb. 1 that she had pulled her podcast “The Roxane Gay Agenda” from Spotify.
“It won’t move any sort of needle but I removed my podcast from Spotify,” she tweeted. “That’s all there really is to say about that. Onward.”
David Crosby and Stephen Stills
On Feb. 2, Crosby, Stills & Nash announced plans to “remove their collective recordings from Spotify” in solidarity with their bandmate Young a day after Nash individually renounced the platform.
The musicians vowed to yank tracks recorded by various iterations of the group — including songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Crosby, Stills & Nash; and Crosby & Nash — from the streaming service. Much of Young’s individual library is already gone from Spotify, while the rest are in the process of removing their solo work as well.
Like Young, the remaining members of the folk-rock group cited “dangerous disinformation being aired on Spotify’s Joe Rogan podcast” as justification for ditching the streamer.
“While we always value alternate points of view, knowingly spreading disinformation during this global pandemic has deadly consequences,” Crosby, Stills & Nash said in a joint statement.
Oscar-nominated director and producer Ava DuVernay’s arts and social impact collective Array disclosed Thursday that it had cut ties with Spotify.
“We’re parting ways with Spotify,” Array said in a statement. The company did not elaborate on the reasons for ending its deal, which was first reported by the New York Times.
Last year, Array struck a multiyear podcast deal with Spotify, but no projects had been released under the now-defunct partnership. Spotify declined to comment.
Times staff writer Wendy Lee contributed to this report.