Artists Pull from Spotify over COVID-19 Misinformation

Tavi Pollard, Media Editor

In the last week of January, Neil Young asked Spotify to pull his music from the popular streaming service Spotify, because of the COVID-19 misinformation on Spotify’s most listened-to podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE). The move was echoed by many other artists—including Joni Mitchell, India Arie, and Young’s former bandmates Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Graham Nashin order to highlight the way Spotify manages its content; however, some are criticizing the move as unproductive.

As the host of one of the largest podcasts in the world, Joe Rogan is not new to controversy. Whether it be from questionable guests, anti-vaxers, or smoking weed with Elon Musk, his show continually draws great amounts of attention. Over the past year, Rogan has shared his views on COVID-19 vaccinations on his podcast, say- ing, “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go, ‘no.’” He has also interviewed people such as Dr. Robert Malone, who promotes COVID-19 misinformation about masks, vaccines, and social distancing. Malone was banned from Twitter over COVID-19 misinformation in late December 2021.

This has led many to question whether Rogan should be given a platform to speak on these issues. One person who questioned this is Lila Valaskovic ’23 who spoke to the Register Forum about artists’ decisions to pull their music from Spotify. Valaskovic agreed with Young and Mitchell’s decisions to pull their music from the platform, saying, “Good for them. I think it’s important we take a stand against the big companies that are endangering people’s lives by uplifting misinformation.”

Some who were previously JRE listeners have also reevaluated their opinions on the podcast. Isaac Wedaman ’23 told the Register Forum, “[I like] the diversity of guests with varying opinions, it’s nice to get both sides of the story. It’s interesting to listen to people like Ben Shapiro and go like, ‘what is he talking about…’ to also have people like brain scientists talking about sleep on the show … But I don’t really rock with the COVID and gun stuff.”

Some people … accuse Spotify of prioritizing profits over public interest.

Spotify has already announced upcoming content moderation changes because of the controversy, and they have begun to remove certain episodes of Rogan’s podcast. However, they will continue to give Rogan a platform going forward. This has only continued the public outcry against JRE, including a call for more people to pull their music and podcasts in protest. Isaac Patterson’23 explained, “Spreading vaccine misinformation is bad; if Rogan is doing it, Spotify should ban him.” He also requested that the Register Forum “take a stand and pull [its] podcast off of Spotify” over the Rogan controversy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Spotify signed Rogan with a 100-million-dollar exclusivity deal back in May 2021. Rogan’s status as the world’s largest podcaster, producing a large portion of Spotify’s revenue, has caused some people to accuse Spotify of prioritizing profits over public interest.

Since this controversy, there has also been information about Rogan’s use of a racial slur in recent days, continuing the scrutiny placed on Rogan, his podcast, and Spotify. If Spotify continues to give Rogan a platform, many will be led to wonder just how much Spotify is willing to tolerate in the future.

This piece also appears in our February 2022 print edition.