Spotify is removing Neil Young’s music from its platform, two days after the singer posted a since-deleted letter on his website protesting COVID-19 misinformation on the streaming service’s podcast by comedian Joe Rogan.
Young, 76, posted a note on his website Wednesday, calling Spotify “a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about Covid.”
The singer thanked his label, Warner Bros. Reprise Records, for standing by his decision.
“Spotify represents 60% of the streaming of my music to listeners around the world, almost every record I have ever released is available -- my life’s music -- a huge loss for my record company to absorb,” Young wrote on his website. “Yet my friends at Warner Brothers Reprise 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. Unfortunately, it is not.”
Young’s most popular songs as a solo artist, like “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon,” “Like a Hurricane” and “Old Man,” have received extensive airtime on the radio for decades and have attracted millions of streams on Spotify, The New York Times reported.
Before the removal, Young had 2.4 million followers and more than 6 six million monthly listeners on Spotify, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Young’s criticism of Rogan, Spotify’s most popular podcast host, came after a group of scientists, professors and public health experts asked Spotify to remove a Dec. 31, 2021 episode of Rogan’s show, according to the newspaper. That episode, featuring Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious-disease expert, promoted “several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines,” according to the group’s public letter, which was issued on Jan. 10.
“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 told the Times and The Washington Post in a statement. “We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
Rogan signed an exclusive podcast deal with Spotify in 2020 that has been reported to be worth $100 million, the Times reported.
“We want creators to create,” Daniel Ek, the chief executive and co-founder of Spotify, 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.”
In a follow-up letter written after his Monday announcement, Young thanked Merck Mercuriadis and his company, Hipgnosis Songs, which bought a 50% stake in Young’s publishing rights in 2021, Rolling Stone reported. The singer also called Ek a friend, adding he was disappointed with “the steps he has taken because it stopped my music from being shared on his Spotify platform.”
A representative or Mercuriadis did not reply to Rolling Stone’s request for comment, but Hipgnosis Studios posted a screenshot of Young’s open letter on Instagram on Tuesday with the message, “Go off Neil” and five clapping emojis.
Representatives for Young have not yet responded to the Post’s request for comment. Young’s manager, Frank Gironda, told the Daily Beast that the issue was “something that’s really important to Neil. He’s very upset about this disinformation.”
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