In Their Own Words: Why Artists are Leaving Spotify

Oh, what a series of events Neil Young has started.

Late last month, the legendary singer/songwriter wrote a letter about his misgivings with Spotify and its popular podcast from host Joe Rogan, which he posted on his website.

Following the footsteps of hundreds of doctors and healthcare professionals, Young decried Rogan’s misinformation when it comes to COVID-19 and criticized Spotify for hosting Rogan’s show.

In the 7-10 days since Young posed the ultimatum to Spotify, the platform decided to back Rogan, whom they paid $100 million for the exclusive hosting rights to his show. As a result, many more artists have followed in Young’s footsteps.

Those artists include India.Arie, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Nils Lofgren and more. Here, we wanted to collect what these artists are saying about Spotify and Rogan, so their words and thoughts could be seen in one place.

Neil Young

Young demands that Spotify make a choice between his music or Rogan’s popular podcast. Young claims that Rogan is giving misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines that is potentially causing serious damage, and deaths.

Prior to Young’s demand, hundreds of doctors have petitioned Spotify to take action against Rogan. (Here is a clip of him being fact-checked in real-time but not admitting error.)

On his own website, Young wrote, “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. Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

Young continued, “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both.”

He added, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is exclusively hosted on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Later, in a new letter posted on his website not long after the first, Neil Young said he is not for censorship, he’s simply making a choice.

After making an ultimatum to the streaming giant Spotify, Young put his money where his mouth is and went through with his demand. As such, Spotify will no longer carry Young’s music.

But in the new letter, which Young posted earlier this week, he wrote: “When I left SPOTIFY, I felt better.”

He wrote in full, “Digital music has been with us about 40 years now. Digital, rather than reproducing copies of the music as we did back in the analog day, reconstitutes it from 1s and 0s and plays back data that you hear as music.

“This allows business people like those who run SPOTIFY to cut the quality right down to 5% of the music’s content. It’s just math. It’s easy to do that with digital, thus allowing more songs and less music to stream faster. That’s because 95% is missing. Thats what SPOTIFY the Tech company does. SPOTIFY then sells you the downgraded music.

“When I started everyone got to hear all the music. 100%.

“AMAZON, APPLE MUSIC and Qobuz deliver up to 100% of the music today and it sounds a lot better than the shitty degraded and neutered sound of SPOTIFY. If you support SPOTIFY, you are destroying an art form. Business over art. SPOTIFY plays the artist’s music at 5% of its quality and charges you like it was the real thing.

AMAZON, APPLE MUSIC and Qobuz now deliver the real thing. SPOTIFY is ripping you off and has been since day 1. No goosebumps from SPOTIFY sound!

“Switch to one of the alternatives – companies that support the arts. Real sound is available there. AMAZON, APPLE MUSIC and Qobuz You just have to leave Spotify and go to a new place that truly cares about music quality.

“I met Danielle Ek when he started SPOTIFY. it sounded to me like he was really going to be getting into it. That was a long time ago. I wonder what happened.

“When I left Spotify, I felt better.

I support free speech. I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.

“As an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else.

“love earth be well neil.”

Joni Mitchell

On Friday (January 28), Joni Mitchell announced she would also be taking her music off Spotify, citing the streaming platform’s potential for misinformation.

In a letter on her website, Mitchell wrote: “I stand with Neil.”

“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify,” she added. “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

Mitchell also added a link to the open letter that hundreds of science and medical professionals wrote to Spotify, citing popular podcaster Joe Rogan, whose show earns 10-11 million listeners each episode. See that entire letter HERE (with all 270 signatures).

Nils Lofgren

Lofgren, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted guitarist, who has played with both Neil Young’s band Crazy Horse and Springsteen’s E Street Band, wrote on Saturday (January 29) via the Neil Young Archives page:

“A few days ago, my wife Amy and I became aware of Neil and Daryl [Hannah] standing with hundreds of health care professionals, scientists, doctors, and nurses in calling out Spotify for promoting lies and misinformation that are hurting and killing people. When these heroic women and men, who’ve spent their lives healing and saving ours, cry out for help you don’t turn your back on them for money and power. You listen and stand with them.”

India.Arie

In a statement released on Jan. 31, Arie, who currently has 1.3 million monthly listeners on the streaming service, said she supports Young’s stance against Rogan and his guests’ coronavirus comments on the Spotify podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, but was also dismayed by Rogan’s “language around race.”

“I have decided to pull my music and podcast from Spotify,” said Arie. “Neil Young opened a door that I must walk through. I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons other than his Covid interviews. For me, it’s also his language around race.”

Arie added, “What I am talking about is respect–who gets it and who doesn’t. Paying musicians a fraction of a penny? And him $100M? This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep. I’m tired.”

The R&B artist has already filed official requests to have her music removed from Spotify, according to a report.

Arie’s statement follows a series of tweets by the artist beginning on Jan. 29, using the hashtag “#DeleteSpotify.” Prior to her decision to pull from Spotify, Arie was expressing her anger toward the streaming platform and the music industry in a series of posts.

“The music industry is abusive,” she wrote in one post, “Sexist. Racist. Ageist. Amplified and Unchecked. This is not an opinion. This is wisdom. This streaming model is but one area that needs to be torn down and rebuilt with respect for the artists at the fore.”

Graham Nash

“Having heard the Covid disinformation spread by Joe Rogan on Spotify” said Nash in a statement on Instagram, “I completely agree with and support my friend, Neil Young.”

“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. 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.

“It should also be acknowledged that many younger musicians, and many musicians of all ages, rely on platforms like this to gain exposure to a wider audience and share their music with the world.

“Not everyone is able to take steps like this which is all the more reason that platforms like Spotify must be more responsible and accountable for the content they are obligated to moderate for the good of the public at large.”

David Crosby

“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. David Crosby, Stephen Stills & Graham Nash”

Failure

LA rock band Failure said that their reason for leaving Spotify is similar to Young’s and other artists, in opposition to Rogan and his guests. Additionally, the band also cited Spotify’s lack of payment to as another cause of their exit artists from the streaming platform.

“Failure have wrestled with the question of Spotify and whether to have our newest music, which we control, on the platform,” wrote the band on social media. “Until now, our ambivalence about Spotify has been based on their draconian royalty calculation which essentially gives artists a microscopic fraction of the money being generated by their music on the platform. We’ve all seen the stories of just artists how little Spotify pays whose product powers their entire business model. It’s been a scam for artists since the beginning, following in the tradition of the major label model which preceded it.”

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

In the wake of several artists leaving Spotify over complaints of the popular streaming platform’s encouragement of COVID-19 misinformation, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has taken a new approach. The rocker has launched his own streaming service, Weezify.

The artist announced the news on social media, taking to Twitter to tell his 1.1 million followers, “Tired of Spotify? Come on over to Weezify.”

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