YOUNG (and old) v SPOTIFY: elimination fight.

YOUNG (and old) v SPOTIFY: elimination fight.

by Norman Warwick

I have read words before by Elise Souter, who has reported this unseemly spat, not in a boxing magazine, but at Paste on-line, which deals with all things entertainment. She puts forward persuasive arguments in any arguments and puts forward empirical evidence, so I looked forward to the article with her name above it, and knew I would leave her pages wiser on this matter than when I arrived.

Elise Souter has already enjoyed Editorial internships at magazines of the quality of The Untitled magazine and The Folklore and has also served as Staff Writer at The Fordham Ram. At the start of this year  she become a Music Interne at Paste after gaining her Bachelor´s degree in journalism at Fordham University.

In Janauary 2022 she reported that ´as of this writing, Neil Young’s music (left) is no longer available to stream on Spotify. Following the artist’s Jan. 24 publication of an open letter to the service (which has since been deleted) demanding that they either remove The Joe Rogan Experience podcast or Young’s music, Spotify has begun the process of pulling his solo catalogue from the platform.

Rogan’s podcast (right) has repeatedly faced backlash for sharing misinformation concerning the Covid-19 vaccine; other recent statements of concern include an open letter from 270 medical professionals calling on Spotify to de-platform Rogan after having Dr. Robert Malone, who has been criticized for making baseless anti-vaccination claims, as a guest.

In a follow-up letter posted to his website on Wednesday, Young acknowledged that the decision would be detrimental to his streaming income, writing, “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.” He then went on to thank his representatives at Warner Brothers for standing with his decision, stating he was willing to forgo the income from royalties “in the name of Truth,” and calling Spotify “the home of life threatening COVID misinformation,” and “lies being sold for money.”

photo 3 A representative for Spotify gave a statement to The Hollywood Reporter  regarding Young’s decision, claiming those at the service “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 continued, “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. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.” Young has yet to respond publicly to the platform’s statement.

Paste printed Young’s full follow-up letter, titled “Spotify: In the Name of Truth,” along with a 1998 Young performance from the Paste archives.

SPOTIFY has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID.

I first learned of this problem by reading that 200 plus doctors had joined forces, taking on the dangerous life-threatening COVID falsehoods found in SPOTIFY programming.

Most of the listeners hearing the unfactual, misleading and false COVID information on SPOTIFY are 24 years old, impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth.

These young people believe SPOTIFY would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out.

All my music is available on SPOTIFY, being sold to these young people, people who believe what they are hearing because it is on SPOTIFY, and people like me are supporting SPOTIFY by presenting my music there.

I realized I could not continue to support SPOTIFY’s life threatening misinformation to the music loving public.

Before I told my friends at Warner Bros about my desire to leave the SPOTIFY platform, I was reminded by my own legal forces that contractually I did not have the control of my music to do that. I announced I was leaving anyway, because I knew I was. I was prepared to do all I could and more just to make sure that happened.

I want to thank my truly great and supportive record company Warner Brothers – Reprise Records, for standing with me in my decision to pull all my music from Spotify. Thank You!

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. 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.

Thank you WARNER BROTHERS for standing with me and taking the hit – losing 60% of my world wide streaming income in the name of Truth. SPOTIFY has become the home of life threatening COVID misinformation. Lies being sold for money.

There is an upside for my listeners, people who may be listening to the 60 years of music I have made in my life so far. It is this: many other platforms, Amazon, Apple, and Qobuz, to name a few, present my music today in all its High-Resolution glory – the way it is intended to be heard, while unfortunately SPOTIFY continues to peddle the lowest quality in music reproduction. So much for art. But now that is in the past for me. Soon my music will live on in a better place.

I truly want to thank the many, many people who have reached out to me thanking me for taking this position – people who are health professionals on the front lines, people who have lost loved ones to COVID or who are worried for their own children and families. I have never felt so much love coming from so many.

I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY’s deadly misinformation about COVID.

In the name of Truth.

Neil Young

In time between Young sending that open letter and the publishing of today´s piece other artists such as Springsteen guitarist Nils Lofgren and Joni Mitchell have taken similar stances and removed their product from Spotify. Nils has always been one to Shine Silently, of course and Joni knows all about ´playing real good for free !´

That we examine Spotify´s ethics is important, of course, and so, too is maintaining portals which new music and sounds can drift through. This old music everyone is talking about I what my generation called new music about fifty years ago. Most of us still do, and that cannot be right.

Billboard then announced that Young’s former CSNY bandmate, Graham Nash, was one of the first to back him, writing in a statement on Feb. 1 that he ´completely agree[s] and support[s] my friend, Neil Young,” without explicitly mentioning his own catalogue’s placement on the service, though a rep confirmed he is asking for his solo recordings to be removed.

´There is a difference between being open to varying viewpoints on a matter and knowingly spreading false information which some 270 medical professionals have derided not only false but dangerous,´ Nash wrote on Instagram, referring to an open letter sent to Spotify by experts, doctors, scientists and professors expressing concern over Rogan’s platforming of COVID disinformation. ´Likewise there is a difference between misinformation, in which one is unaware that what is being said is false, versus disinformation which is knowingly false and intended to mislead and sway public opinion. In this case, in a way that could cost people their lives´.

David Crosby and Stephen Stills, former band mates with Nash and Young, of course in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (left) were then reported as joining the boycott.

Though the dream of reuniting CSNY has long faded, Young’s other former band-mates in that 1970s supergroup,  joined Graham Nash in requesting on Feb. 2 that their labels remove their group and solo recordings as well. Crosby and Still made their demand a day after Nash shared his statement with the world.

In a unified statement, the band members commented, ´We support Neil and we agree with him that there is dangerous disinformation being aired on Spotify’s Joe Rogan podcast. While we always value alternate points of view, knowingly spreading disinformation during this global pandemic has deadly consequences. Until real action is taken to show that a concern for humanity must be balanced with commerce, we don’t want our music — or the music we made together — to be on the same platform.”

Billboard has also reported that the Grammy-winning singer, India Arie, (right) also expressed solidarity with Young on Feb. 1 when she shared that she’d be removing her music from Spotify. But in an interview, she said her reasoning for requesting that her music and podcast, SongVersation, be taken down goes beyond the rocker’s anger over Rogan’s COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

´One is the Joe Rogan conversation, and for me his language around race and some of the things I’ve seen and heard, but also coupled with that, there is the treatment of artists by Spotify´, she told syndicated talker Tamron Hall, seemingly alluding to a recent episode in which Rogan hosted Canadian psychologist and conservative YouTube personality Jordan Peterson, and had a conversation in which the two white men held forth on questions of racial authenticity while making insensitive, racially charged comments about skin tone.

Arie also said her decision was based on what she said was the wildly unbalanced difference in pay between working musicians and Rogan. ´And so artists are underpaid and Joe Rogan gets paid all this money and it’s hard for me to, these days, just sit back and go, ‘Oh, well, that’s how it goes,’ she said, in reference to the long-running complaint from artists that Spotify hasn’t paid musicians enough, even as it reportedly shelled out $100 million for the rights to Rogan’s show in May 2020´.

The actions of these artists in pulling their music from the Spotify platform has been largely met with support from fellow artists. But it’s not as easy for other stars, even those who’ve been in the music business for decades, to follow suit.

Rosanne Cash, speaking to Rolling Stone, said that while she ´absolutely agree[s]´ with Young’s choice to remove his music from the Spotify streaming service, it’s ´not viable for most artists´ to do the same because they’re often less powerful than Young and Mitchell, don’t always own the rights to their work and often rely on streamers like Spotify to share their work and make money.

´Young and Mitchell are legacy artists´, Cash said, ´who have the clout to get their labels to agree to pull their work off Spotify´.

It is increasingly clear to us here at Sidetracks And Detours that this is a multi-agenda topic. We have this week read of and reported music industry concerns that platforms such as Spotify might be inadvertently stunting the emergence of new music, see our article Killing me Softly With Old Songs, posted earlier this week, and there are rumours too of musicinas questioning the fairness of the royalty rates.

Regular readers will know that we believe firmly that songs are written for light years of travel and that great songs will always find a landing spot.

It feels impossible to condone Mr. Rogan´s advice to the young people of this world on covid safety and Spotify´s support of him feels misguided. However, a younger generation in search of new music will always make their own mind up about where to find it and about which old music, if any, should be preserved. We should try to remember WHOever said The Kids Are Alright, and we should allow those kids to make up their own minds about music and medicine and life and limitations.  Kids have been doing that for six million years or more and they seem to have done pretty well, so far.

The primary sources for this article include a piece written by Ellie Souter for Paste on line, as well as articles published in Rolling Stone and on CNN Entertainment.

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has regularly guested on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.

As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

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