In the subscription based music and media streaming landscape, Spotify is become top-dog. I mean, does anyone even remember MOG, Rdio or Rhapsody? Among the current crop of recognizable music streamers are Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and of course Spotify. As the most ubiquitous streaming service, Spotify offers a number of curated music discovery services, and is constantly implementing new ones. But in recent year’s, they’ve ramped up their non-music content with a push toward podcasts, most notably with Joe Rogan.
And it’s those podcasts that creating this week’s newsworthy kerfuffle between a long irrelevant rocker from the sixties, and a firebrand comedian, MMA fight commentator, and podcast host, who signed what’s been rumored to be a $200m, multiyear exclusive with Spotify. You see, while Joe Rogan has recently started questioning the politics and efficacy of the often mandated vaccines, or at least interviewing notable people who do, long-ago irrelevant rocker Neil Young is angry that anyone is listening to Joe Rogan promote what he calls “false information.”
On Monday, the legendary rocker, asked in an open letter to his management team and record label, that Spotify remove his music in response to the platform’s failure to blacklist podcaster Joe Rogan.
“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” he wrote. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule. […] I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he continued. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
In the past, Young has also demanded that Donald Trump not use his music at political rallies, and has even threatened to remove his music from Spotify before over sound quality issues, but later relented. But in today’s digital age, aging rockers like Neil Young are not nearly as relevant as a podcaster like Joe Rogan. In fact, the average number of listeners Rogan draws per episode dwarf legacy media programming like Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, or CNN during primetime, so he is strategically labelled as “dangerous” for not promoting what the Critical Drinker calls “the message.”
A spokesperson for Spotify responded the next day with, “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,” they said. “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
And just like that, anyone that had Neil Young on their Spotify playlist could no longer listen to Young’s suddenly ironically titled hit from 1989, “Rockin’ in the Free World“.
I think it’s important to note that before our digital age, a time when I can just post a link to Neil’s 30+ year old hit song, audiophiles like me had to use “physical media.” We actually had to buy our books on CD or tape, (or paper!), and movies were on VHS or DVD or BluRay. For music we had vinyl records, cassette tapes, and CDs, which we could “rip” to an MP3 for listening on our computers or iPods. But nowadays, most everyone buys their favorite media digitally, rather than “ripping” it, but with a hidden cost, and for the most part we actually don’t own it.
You see, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and most subscription services have the right to take that media away for any reasons (violating TOS, Copyright expired licenses, certain rights of ownership), including when an anti-freedom loving ex-hippie like Neil Young decides he doesn’t want to play his music on your service anymore. Unlike those vinyl records or CDs you can hold in your hands, Neil can make Spotify take his music from you if he likes. Not that as many people care about Neil Young as they do about Rogan these days.
Many other rockers feel similarly to Young. In fact, Bruce Springsteen, and the Foo Fighters, and even Garth Brooks are insisting on vaccine passports to come to their shows, but others are actually boycotting venues that require vaccines. Eric Clapton is one such anti-establishment rocker, and he thinks these pro-establishment rockers have all fallen victim to “mass formation psychosis,” to coin a phrase made globally popular by Dr. Robert Malone when he appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast on December 31 of last year. While the episode is one of the most listened to in Spotify’s history, and has not been removed, Youtube later removed it after pressure from pro-vaccine advocates.
Meanwhile, Malone’s theory has been discussed across the internet. And while legacy news outlets are trying to debunk Dr. Malone’s theory, guys like Clapton sees the signs of “mass hypnosis” everywhere, and in an interview this week with Harmless Dave of The Real Music Observer, he explained that those who took the vaccine had succumbed to the brainwashing.
Clapton has been a staunch anti-vaxx mandate proponent ever since a frightening ordeal he experienced after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine last year, which he called “disastrous.” Since then he has recorded a couple of anti-COVID-restrictions songs, along with Van Morrison, stoking the anger of faithful COVIDians like Neil Young. But Clapton’s outspokenness on COVID issues has been met with a lot of criticism, but he says he spoke out anyway because his “career had almost gone anyway.”
“At the point where I spoke out, it had been almost been 18 months since I’d been forcibly retired,” he explained. “I joined forces with Van and I got the tip Van was standing up to the measures and I thought, ‘Why is nobody else doing this?’ so I contacted him. He said, ‘I’m just objecting, really. But it seems like we’re not even allowed to do that. And nobody else is doing it.’”
No matter where you stand on the vaccine mandates, or in the Neil Young vs Spotify vs Joe Rogan debate, physical media will still be around even after the servers go down. Might be time to head back to the used books and CDs store.
The main takeaway from this whole Neil Young situation is you should own your favourite music that you actually care about, and not rely on streaming services to offer it to you for rent
Neil Young can’t bully Spotify into confiscating your vinyl records or CDs
— Harry Khachatrian (@Harry1T6) January 26, 2022
Sounds like it might be time to dust off my vinyl copy of ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’.