An Open Letter to Neil Young Regarding Spotify
I’ve never used the term “OK, boomer” since I don’t like the idea of shaming elders. I have to admit though, that it’s crossed my mind more than once during your boycott over Spotify’s Joe Rogan show.
It’s not that I agree with Rogan’s Covid misinformation, or that I think Spotify shouldn’t have more clear policies in place and enforce them. I also have a ton of respect for the brave stance you’ve taken in support of public health and safety, and the light you’ve shone on some problematic operations at Spotify. I had no idea they’d paid $100M for Rogan’s podcast, nor anything else about him for that matter, aside from the news that he’d taken horse dewormer medicine when he got Covid.
The problem is, while you’ve been an established music star for half a century and can afford to remove your catalog from Spotify without becoming destitute, younger generations of more hungry musicians rely on the platform to help grow their burgeoning careers. Not because the platform is doling out cash (quite the contrary in fact) but because Spotify has become an important piece of music industry infrastructure, more akin to a powerful and influential radio station than to a record store. During the heyday of radio, artists didn’t expect to be paid for airplay. In fact their promoters often paid radio stations and DJs to play tracks with the hope they might score a hit. Getting playlisted on Spotify is similar in the new music economy.
Have you ever pulled your music from a radio network because you didn’t like the policies of the owners? Are you going to pull your music from SiriusXM because they also distribute Fox News (the anti-democracy, anti-public health misinformation being spread by Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, et al couldn’t be less harmful than Rogan’s)? It appears not, since you just launched “Neil Young Radio” on SeriusXM after leaving Spotify.
Perhaps you’re expecting a cascade of others like your friends Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren to exit Spotify. Folks with your level of success can probably join the cause without too much pain, but I hope you don’t expect less-established musicians to cut ties with one of their most potent promotional tools during this extremely difficult time for artists. It’s asking too much.
And what about the impact of this campaign on us fans? Your tune “Old Man” is now missing from my “Love Songs, Lullabies, and Laments” playlist and countless others I’m sure. Pulling your tracks is literally breaking the music infrastructure.
I wonder if your actions may have more negative implications than you had initially considered. Non-the-less, I deeply respect you, your career, your passion, and what you’re attempting to do. Thank you for taking a big risk for the betterment of society.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world,
— Jake Trussell
PS: If you do keep on rockin’ this anti-misinformation campaign and are able to take down the Fox News cabal, we’ll be forever indebted.