Neil Young has threatened to remove his music from Spotify because he believes the streaming company enables podcaster Joe Rogan to spread “fake information” about vaccines.
In an email to his record label, Warner Records, Young said Spotify “has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform”.
“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he wrote. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Young, whose hits include “Heart of Gold” and “Harvest Moon” and counts 6m monthly listeners on Spotify, is the first major artist to publicly threaten to leave the platform over its association with Rogan, who hosts the most popular podcast on the Spotify app.
Since spending $100m to bring Rogan to Spotify as it aggressively pushed to expand its podcast offerings, the company has repeatedly come under fire over the American commentator’s content.
Young’s letter was a response to a December podcast in which Rogan interviewed Robert Malone, a controversial virologist who researched messenger RNA vaccines and is now sceptical of them. On the podcast, Malone told Rogan that US hospitals are financially incentivised to falsely report deaths as being caused by coronavirus.
Rogan has also on his podcast encouraged “healthy” young people not to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
This has put Spotify in an awkward situation. The company has a commercial interest to keep Rogan, whose podcast is listened to by millions of people. But as it pushes further into owning its own programming, Spotify faces similar problems and controversy to those that hang over YouTube and other big tech platforms regarding the content on their sites.
A group of doctors and scientists earlier this month called on Spotify to “moderate misinformation” on its platform, arguing that Rogan has spread false claims about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines. “Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications”, they wrote.
Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Warner Music declined to comment.
Young’s music was still available on Spotify as of Tuesday morning.
Young removed his music from Spotify in 2015 because he said the sound quality was too poor. It has since been restored.
When asked in 2020 about Rogan’s decision to invite conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to his podcast, Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek told the Financial Times: “We want creators to create. It’s what they do best. We’re not looking to play a role in what they should say.”
Rogan hosted Jones on his show, where he promoted unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of vaccines. Large tech groups including Spotify, Facebook, Apple and Twitter have banned Jones, the far-right founder of InfoWars who has previously said the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut — where 26 people, including 20 schoolchildren were killed — was a hoax.