What did Neil Young accomplish by removing his music from Spotify?

Neil Young’s decision to remove his music from Spotify has ignited lively discussion and debate, so we thought we would start a conversation as part of our Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts music and social justice project.

Below is what we heard from the voices we reached out to. To learn more about our Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts project, click here.

STEVE COCCA: Host of Flying on WSBU-FM

It is always important when famous people take a stance on a political, social, economic or in this case a public health issue.

While I’m sure that the stance taken by Young and Joni Mitchell, opposing Rogan’s comments, likely will not cause anyone to change their mind, it is important that people of fame be on the public record.

An interesting spin in this instance is that Young has backed up his stance with an economic action that likely will hit Spotify where it hurts, in the wallet! Way to go Neil and Joni.

DAVID FREEMAN: Musician, Producer and Cultural Arts Educator

Coming on the heels of November 2021 news reports of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s controversial investments in AI defense technology, the latest controversy in Spotify’s corporate takeover of the music industry comes to no surprise.

Once considered a cultural renaissance man with depth and insight, Joe Rogan’s exploration of the expanse of the human mind has narrowed into a practice built on spreading misinformation when it comes to COVID.

Rogan’s disregard for public health has become a bother to artists so much so that musician Neil Young has removed his library from the online streaming service. Over the weekend, multiple news outlets reported Spotify shutting down customer service operation in response to overwhelming reaction by the public.

It appears that Spotify has looked to side with Rogan, deferring  accountability, a stance we witness time and time again by social media/streaming platform magnates.

STEVEN GARABEDIAN: Author and Associate Professor of History at Marist College

The commercial music industry has a long history of meager compensation for musical artists, and the major streaming services — Spotify prominent among them — are no exception.

Superstars with the market power and visibility of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are to be commended for spearheading the boycott. Other artists and podcasters carried by Spotify are reportedly set to follow. 

We should never forget that the music and content that enriches our lives and comes to so many of us so easily, so “freely” and instantaneously, through online streaming has power structures and real-life stakes behind it. 

CAROLE McNALL: Attorney and Assistant Professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University

I think Neil Young was after a couple of things, both of which he accomplished.

First, I think he wanted to show this music and these musicians could influence the conversation on an important issue. If he intended it to be a private statement, he wouldn’t have posted it online, even temporarily.

I think he also felt that leaving things as they were could be seen as agreeing with Spotify’s decision to give Joe Rogan a platform for misinformation. By doing things his way, it was clear where he stood.



Categories: Jandoli Institute, Music and Social Justice

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