Peace has returned to Spotify via Neil Young and Joni Mitchell

by Lily Dodson
April 3, 2024

At the beginning of 2022, music legends Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, alongside a few other artists pulled their music off Spotify in response to the streaming service platforming controversial podcaster Joe Rogan. Young explained that he did not want to be associated with a brand that had such a controversial figure attached to it, as Rogan has faced accusations from the medical community for spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. Over two years later, both artists have decided to bring their music back to Spotify despite Rogan remaining on the platform. The question is, what changed?

Earlier this year, Spotify adjusted Rogan's contract, allowing him to put his hit podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience," on other streaming platforms. Such an expansion allows Rogan to expand his podcast's reach while still allowing Spotify to handle the distribution of the podcast and gain a certain percentage of revenue from advertising. This ultimately sparked Young's decision to put his music back on Spotify, as pulling his albums from every streaming service would not be a feasible solution. Young reasoned that if he pulled his entire discography off of every platform, it would be nearly impossible for his fans to enjoy his music. Listeners would have to buy either digital or physical copies of his music, with physical copies being much less accessible now. Though neither Joni Mitchell nor anyone from her team has specifically stated why the acclaimed folk artist has made her catalogue available on the streaming giant again, their simultaneous return implies that similar reasoning motivated this decision.

For millions of listeners, the return of Young and Mitchell's music to Spotify is a triumph. One of Young's biggest grievances with Spotify is the platform's quality of music, which is considerably more low-resolution compared to its biggest competitors, such as Amazon Music or Apple Music. As a Spotify user, being able to listen to their best albums and songs on the same app - as opposed to going on YouTube or another streaming service - makes it much easier to enjoy their music. I, for one, am incredibly grateful that both artists have decided to put their music back on Spotify - I got desperate enough that I almost bought my favourite albums, Blue by Mitchell and Harvest Moon by Young on iTunes to upload it myself to Spotify. Still, I cannot help but be slightly disappointed with the circumstances surrounding their decisions. Such a choice on behalf of both artists may be a win for Spotify and its users, but it is not a win for every other streaming service or the general public.

Now that Rogan has an even bigger platform to spread his disinformation and spew his hateful rhetoric, he has the potential to cause even greater harm. While Spotify has approximately 602 million users, Rogan's podcast will now reach an even larger audience - Apple Music has around 88 million listeners and Amazon Music has around 82 million listeners. Needless to say, it is disappointing that the return of neither Mitchell nor Young's music to Spotify happened on ideal terms. When Young first pulled his music off of Spotify in early 2022, he announced in a statement addressed to the platform, "They can have Rogan or Young. Not both." Now, Spotify has both, making Young's initial protest seem slightly meaningless.

This expansion to other platforms will likely have negative implications for the general public. While I agree with and understand Young's decision to bring his music back to the platform, he could have used his returning catalogue as leverage to entice Spotify to renegotiate their deal with Rogan. While Spotify may have still sided with Rogan, I would have liked to see Young attempt to use his position and leverage to force Spotify to rein in Rogan's controversial podcast by holding him to higher standards.

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