OPINION: Neil Young is justified in removing his music from Spotify


Wikimedia Commons

A performance by Neil Young on October 8, 2016 from the music festival Desert Trip, held at the Empire Polo Club.

By Ally Formeller

Late last month, Neil Young threatened to remove his music from Spotify’s streaming services if they did not remove Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Young’s threat comes after months of Rogan using his podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” to promote unverified information about COVID-19 vaccines.

Young is completely justified.

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote in his since-deleted letter to his management team. “They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both.”

With a long history of political activism, Young’s stance against Spotify’s apparent endorsement of Joe Rogan doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, it’s a welcome reminder to corporations that they’re behind the curve when it comes to combating misinformation, and that needs to change.

Obviously, this decision didn’t come without consequences. According to Billboard, Young and his label Warner Music are estimated to forego over $1,000,000 as a result of lost streaming revenue.

At that price, no one would blame Young for keeping quiet and taking the money — up until now, everyone else has.

Regardless, Young’s choice was the right one. By taking a stand against Spotify for continuing to host and endorse content that has unverified information about COVID-19, Young is drawing clear boundaries over what is acceptable and what is not. 

“These young people believe Spotify would never present grossly (nonfactual) information,” Young wrote in a letter published on his archival page. “They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out.”

Against Rogan’s 11 million monthly listeners and his show’s title in top podcasts of 2021, Young’s roughly six million monthly listeners were not enough to keep his music on the platform. Spotify ultimately chose to keep hosting “The Joe Rogan Experiencepodcast.   

Since Young’s departure from Spotify, other artists, such as Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren, a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, are also pulling their music from the streaming platform. 

Spotify has also since updated its platform rules, which includes adding content advisories to content that discusses COVID-19.

Overall, the ultimatum Young presented to Spotify is, financially, not doing him any favors. Regardless, in a time of rampant misinformation and distrust of health officials, Young stood in solidarity with all those working to keep the COVID-19 virus under control. 

While he may not have begun an industry-changing boycott of the platform, Young rightfully called out Spotify on their blatant endorsement of false information in a powerful way.