Spotify Slapped by More than Neil Young

“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.”

Spotify’s 5-day chart, ending Friday down 6.7 percent. (Google Finance, click to see larger)

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.

The bigger Spotify picture: the 6-month chart shows a plunge from a total market value of $57.6 billion last November 1 to $33.1B Friday, a staggering $24.5B. (Google Finance) On the other hand, see next chart, below.

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.

SPOT rose $23.28/share today with news of Rogan’s mea culpa.

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.

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14 Comments on “Spotify Slapped by More than Neil Young

  1. One underlying element of this Neil Young/Spotify tussle is that Neil Young does not own his songs to be able to say what happens to them. Warner Bros owns the distribution rights (and they did follow up after Young’s publicity stunt). But even the residual and profits from Young’s catalog are not his; he sold those last year. Many artists have done that last year, most likely (according to WSJ) due to anticipated tax increases from Biden’s and Democrat congress potential tax hikes.

    I find the biggest irony is the author/composer of “Rockin in the Free World” wants free opinions, supported with facts and medical testing, censored.

    I had a vague recollection that Young was one of the musicians who sold their catalogs for up-front cash, but was already running late and didn’t check — so I’m glad you commented. Variety discusses the issues quite well. -rc

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  2. I was also interested in this story. The stock chart above is misleading as it looks like Spotify took a hit around the time of this kerfuffle. But look at a 6 month chart of the stock and you will clearly see that it’s just part of a trend: the stock peaked early November and has been sliding down ever since, and really took a dive a week or so before Neil Young delivered his ultimatum.

    Dare I point out that this is exactly the type of data cherry picking that we laugh at in This Is True?

    Also, I find it hilarious that Neil Young is worried about disinformation on drugs… I think he’s more or less been high since he was in Jr High school!

    Ironically, I am a fan of Neil Young and not a fan of Joe Rogan, but an even bigger fan of the truth!

    It’s very easy to look at a 6-month chart: it’s right on this page pointing that out AND that it recovered quite a bit on Monday. Which of those facts already on the page do you think were cherry-picked? -rc

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    • I read the article twice and still missed the 6 month chart, which I can clearly see now. Mea culpa. Time for an eye exam….

      Been there, done that! No worries. There’s a lot to absorb and consider here. -rc

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  3. I was looking at this data, and I was curious of what the same six month period looked like with the rest of the stock market. Oddly enough, six months of the stock market shows a close enough trend that I would question the correlation.

    Not sure I’m following you: you mean the 6-mo SPOT curve looks just like the market as a whole? Here’s the comparison: I see no similarity. If it works in a comment, you should be able to click it to see this larger. -rc

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  4. Neil feels strongly about the need for vaccination because he had polio as a child, before the vaccine was introduced. He has a permanent limp because of it, and is at risk for post-polio syndrome.

    Interestingly, Joni Mitchell, also a Canadian, is also a polio survivor. -rc

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  5. There is no defense for Neil Young against accusations of hypocrisy, but that doesn’t change the fact that on this issue, he is right, and Spotify are in the wrong.

    But as a man with an aging fan base — as a 70 year old, I’m one of his younger fans — I don’t think Spotify care in the slightest, and any damage to their share price will be transient.

    And I don’t think Rocking In The Free World was about the right to disseminate false information, though opinions are fine.

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    • Andrew, Neil appealed to a lot of punk rockers once they started looking backwards at older music that actually might be good. I’m 53 and gave been a fan since ’80 or so. So, no, he’s got a solid “younger” fan base as well. XD

      Having extremely wide musical tastes, I wasn’t sure if I had any of his albums or not, and had to look. Found “Harvest Moon”. Oh yeah! I like it. I’m somewhere in between you two in age. Huh… now I’m a “tweener”?! 🙂 -rc

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  6. Randy, I can’t tell if you are gloating that Neil Young (and others) pulled their music from Spotify to protest Joe Rogan, but your note that Spotify’s stock value dropped $4Bn seems to indicate so.

    Wellllll – if lefty virtue signalers like Neil Young actually had any principles, then the follow up to that story needs to be aired – and I hope This Is True would lead the pack reporting the story. Seems he was losing most of his income stream, so he’s ‘quietly’ reuploaded his library in the past few days. Amazing. But for some reason, he failed to make any announcement to the fact.

    And your article continued the hope that other artists (read, over the hill people looking for attention) would follow suit. I will cut you some slack as you apparently wrote that before Neil came slinking back.

    What you either fail to realize, or do realize and just didn’t note is that the Rogan/COVID item is on the front page because Rogan is ONE of the rare people the left and COVID alarmists cannot bully, deplatform, berate, or get him to stop presenting his views. The left is in fear of people like him, therefore they MUST take him down. This is very simple and I know someone like you sees it. I noted that Joe did a partial “I’m sorry” the other day, which IMO was a big mistake. Because doxxers and cancel culture won’t leave anyone alone who does that – it just indicates the person is weak and the lefties will come in for the kill. What Rogan should have said was “Not sorry, don’t care.” and then stopped commenting on the attacks.

    What you “fail to realize” is your own bias is what’s the problem here. This article is a report on what I was seeing at the time. Nothing more. The editorial “continued the hope that other artists would follow suit”? Where? I don’t see any such “hope” expressed, either explicitly or implicitly.

    So, you based your comment on an article you linked to from outkick.com …which says it got its info from Fox Business, which says it got its info from Wonderwall, which says it got its info from Reuters …which says, right in the headline, “Fact Check-Neil Young’s music has not returned to Spotify, despite social media claims” (emphasis added).

    So, did YOU follow that trail? If not, why not when it means so much to you?

    I did follow the trail, but did NOT read all of that because I don’t give a rat’s ass whether Young’s stuff is on spotify or not, or what portions of his catalog. I simply proved the NYT’s opinion writer totally wrong. That was my only point, and that was demonstrably true on the date on which it was written. I certainly do not come back to every blog post and do a fully researched update on a daily basis, and it’s absolutely stupid to think I should. That said, because I wrote it on a Monday I did (before posting it) go look up to see what SPOT stock did that day and pointed out that it had recovered some: I wanted to be entirely fair to Spotify and, indeed, my own claim.

    Again, the POINT of the article here, as it clearly says, is to show that despite the opinion of a New York Times reporter that Young’s rant is “Good P.R., no doubt, but it has almost no impact,” yet since (as it clearly says above) “I was already seeing significant impact” such as SPOT stock dropping 25 percent that Friday, to about $179/share, which left its value to “plunge from a total market value of $57.6 billion last November 1 to $33.1B Friday, a staggering $24.5B” reduction, she was wrong. Done, moved on.

    But OK, you complained today, even though your complaint is 100 percent wrong, so where did SPOT stock close today?

    About $159/share, for a total market value of $30.6B — which means it’s since dropped ANOTHER $2.5 billion. My point isn’t just proven, it’s sustained. It’s in fact reinforced, not mooted. If (to paraphrase) “righty gotcha signalers” like yourself won’t admit it when the evidence you provide is absolutely wrong, are you going to “lead the pack” in admitting it? If not, what does that say?

    In summary, you’re trying to prove …what, now? And I should give that rat’s ass …why? -rc

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    • David emailed to whine that I “cursed” (“rat’s ass”), and then kitchen-sinked about the Russian-Ukraine war, Covid-19, and inflation …but didn’t address ANY of the points I made in my response. “That didn’t work? Hm… LOOK OVER THERE!” And he claimed he was a member of Mensa …but huh, I didn’t find him on the Mensa membership roster.

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      • “Member of Mensa” until he runs into someone who knows Mensa has member rosters. Then, “I could have joined but chose not to.”

        Yep! -rc

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      • The great thing about right wing whataboutism is that they just move on to the next gripe and never have to deal with the stuff they got wrong.

        You can prove them wrong over and over again, literally destroy every fake fact they use to argue, and they’ll just move on, because they’re not there for truth, but to win. And the bad thing is it takes them much less time and effort to come up with their lies than to treat them down.

        Arguing with wing nuts is the literal definition of why you shouldn’t wrestle a pig.

        There are honest and thoughtful conservatives, but they’re mostly leaving the Republican party because of Trump’s cult of obliviocy.

        Agree, though I’m not trying to convince him. I’m just enjoying letting him put his own obliviocy on display, because honest and thoughtful conservatives and liberals alike enjoy seeing someone stand up to the cultists. -rc

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