Joni Mitchell's four albums released on Geffen Records in the 1980s and early '90s are having a moment right now. While the artist's classic catalog was excised from Spotify after she announced on Jan. 28 she was following Neil Young's lead in protest of COVID-19 misinformation spread by podcaster Joe Rogan, her Geffen releases remain on the platform as of Thursday afternoon (Feb. 3) and have been seeing a major uptick in traffic.
The four albums in question are Wild Things Run Fast (1982), Dog Eat Dog (1985), Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988) and Night Ride Home (1991).
A source at Geffen's parent, Universal Music Group, tells Billboard that the company is in talks with Mitchell's team about how to proceed with the catalog request. The source would not further elaborate on the issues holding up a takedown, but they could be contractual, as artists do not always have the right to pull their music from a platform or store. Mitchell's releases on Warner Music Group's Reprise, Asylum and Nonesuch imprints were removed almost immediately following her announcement, and her album Shine, which was released on Concord in partnership with Starbucks was pulled earlier this week as well.
Young did not seem to have the same issues pulling his own Geffen releases, as those five albums - also from the '80s - were removed from Spotify seemingly in unison with his Warner catalog.
In the meantime, Spotify listeners are taking what they can get and giving the Geffen releases far more attention now compared to before the Rogan decision.
For the first four days following the wider catalog removal, songs on Mitchell's Geffen albums across all streaming services saw a combined 484% increase in on-demand streaming activity in the U.S., according to MRC Data. Between Jan. 29-Feb. 1, the albums generated 113,000 streams compared to 19,000 the four days leading up to Mitchell's decision. (Data from specific providers is not disclosed by MRC Data.) For context, Mitchell's entire catalog of songs was streamed 61.1% more across all streaming services over this same timespan.
Of those Geffen albums, the synth-drenched Dog Eat Dog received the biggest percentage bump in U.S. streams, increasing 784% from 2,000 to 13,000 streams from Jan. 29-Feb. 1. Her debut on the label, Wild Things Run Fast, saw a 595% increase over that period, from 5,000 to 33,000, according to MRC Data, while Chalk Mark In a Rain Storm jumped 470% from 3,000 to 18,000. Garnering the most plays was Night Ride Home, considered Mitchell's creative apex during this period of her career, spiking 390% from 10,000 streams before to 48,000 after.
Songs on a fifth album, Shine, released in 2007 on the Hear Music label in a partnership between Concord Music Group and Starbucks, experienced a 862% increase in streams from 2,000 to 23,000 during that time frame, though it has since been removed.
In a note posted to her official website on Friday, Mitchell wrote, "I've decided to remove all my music from Spotify. 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."
Hours later, Mitchell's albums released on Warner Music labels Reprise, Asylum and Nonesuch were removed from Spotify. Her announcement arrived two days after Spotify complied in granting Young's earlier request to have his entire solo catalog removed in protest of Rogan. Since then, Young's CSNY bandmates - one of whom he has a contentious relationship with - have officially requested to have their solo catalogs and group recordings removed.
Following a statement by Graham Nash released on Tuesday, David Crosby and Stephen Stills added on Wednesday that they "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."
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