“Irresponsible Advice from a Man with No Credibility” is what podcaster Joe Rogan said would be the title of his next book, and was the slug on a story about the Spotify controversy in this week’s issue:
Irresponsible Advice from
a Man with No Credibility
“They can have Rogan or Young,” said musician Neil Young, regarding the audio streaming platform Spotify. “Not both.” Young listeners “believe Spotify would never present grossly unfactual information,” he continued. “They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out,” even though Spotify brings 60 percent of his streaming revenue. Spotify chose “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast over Young’s music: in 2020 they reportedly paid more than $100 million for an exclusive to the podcast. The company is “making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them,” said CEO Daniel Ek, and in a statement Spotify says they have “removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid-19,” but apparently not any of Rogan’s. During the tiff the company’s stock value has dropped more than $4 billion as other musicians, and paying subscribers, bailed. (RC/New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle) …The market: more powerful than any one personality.
What got me interested in the story was a New York Times opinion writer’s take on the fight: “[I]f the goal was to shame Spotify into cleaning up its act, it likely won’t work,” wrote Kara Swisher. “But the impact of leaving Spotify amounts to just the same old huffery and puffery when there’s nowhere else to run to. Good P.R., no doubt, but it has almost no impact.”
But I was already seeing significant impact. Swisher apparently didn’t take into consideration what has been happening to Spotify’s stock price: it has slid dramatically, and not just during this particular debacle. (Has she never thought about ideas spreading on social media?! This afternoon “Spotify CEO” was trending on Twitter with more than 15,000 tweets just about that.)
She also doesn’t seem to have thought about other musicians following Young out the door — leading their loyal subscription-paying fans. And not just musicians: a number of other podcasters, too. To where, if there’s “nowhere else to run”? Well, amusingly, Apple Music has been heavily promoting that they carry Young’s — and musician and boycott supporter Joni Mitchell’s — entire catalogs, which streams there with better sound quality.
There are podcast aggregator competitors too, and this is an opportunity for them if they work it right. (Disclosure: True has a podcast, and Spotify was one of many places that have it available — but they apparently removed it from the platform at some point without bothering to tell me. I certainly don’t receive any money from any podcast aggregator.)
The Times notes that CEO Ek “wrote that for the first time, the service is publishing its platform rules, which address dangerous, deceptive, sensitive and illegal content.” It’s downright shocking they didn’t have that posted long ago.
My Search for Varying Angles on the controversy turned up a post on a Neil Young “news” site, part of which said, “Even Neil fell for the misinformation about 200 plus doctors signing a petition, that was debunked the next day.” That guy is partly right: it wasn’t 200 doctors who signed “An Open Letter to Spotify: A call from the global scientific and medical communities to implement a misinformation policy” (posted here). As of this morning it was 1,325 healthcare professionals, including physicians, medical researchers, and nurses who have been caring for Covid patients.
Whether you like Young’s action or not, he is at least putting his money where his mouth is, pulling out of Spotify despite it bringing him substantial income.
Rogan actually apologized over this late last night (via an Instagram video): “I want to thank Spotify for being so supportive during this time,” he said, “and I’m very sorry that this is happening to them and that they’re taking so much heat from it.” Regarding the musicians, “I’m very sorry that they feel that way. I most certainly don’t want that.”
More importantly, “I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view,” he said. “I don’t want to just show the contrary opinion to what the narrative is. I want to show all kinds of opinions so we can all figure out what’s going on and not just about COVID, about everything.”
As noted in today’s stock chart, “The market” responded accordingly.
How was Spotify’s stock price by the end of the year? $79/share. It recovered quite a bit in 2023, but by the end of April it had never even hit the $150 range. Huh: it’s like I might have been right or something.
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