One bad move and Spotify removes Neil Young

Neil Young performs on stage for his first time in Quebec City during 2018 Festival d'Ete on July 6, 2018. (Photo by Alice Chiche / AFP) (Photo by ALICE CHICHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Spotify said it “regrets” the move and hopes he returns to the platform soon.

The Canadian-American musician behind classic rock hits such as Harvest Moon and Heart of Gold publicly accused Spotify on Monday of “spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them”.

In another statement posted to his website on Wednesday he called the music streaming giant “the home of life-threatening Covid misinformation”, adding: “Lies being sold for money.”

He also thanked his record label, Warner Brothers-owned Reprise Records, for supporting his decision, saying that around 60% of all of his streamed music comes from Spotify listeners.

“Thank you Warner Brothers for standing with me and taking the hit – losing 60% of my worldwide streaming income in the name of Truth,” he wrote online.

Spotify reportedly paid $100m (£75m) for rights to The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2020. The programme is the top podcast on Spotify, and is reportedly downloaded almost 200 million times a month.

On Wednesday, Spotify replied to the singer’s ultimatum.

“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,” it said.

“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.”

Spotify has more than 300m monthly listeners, including more than 170m who pay for a subscription to the service.

It has defended Rogan in the past, including after an episode in 2020 that featured the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“We want creators to create,” chief executive Daniel Ek told The Financial Times at the time. “It’s what they do best. We’re not looking to play a role in what they should say.”

At the time of writing, no other artists have followed Young’s lead.

Steve Sladkowski, the guitarist for Canadian rock band Pup, gave one explanation why, tweeting, “It rocks that Neil can take his music off [Spotify] but the fact remains that the vast majority of us can’t afford to do that because the (very meagre) royalties are one of the few ways to cobble together any semblance of a living.”

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