Sammi Bray ’25
On Jan. 24, Canadian-American singer and songwriter Neil Young requested that the music platform Spotify remove his discography.
Young released a statement saying, “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.” Young joins a collection of individuals upset over commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, which is Spotify exclusive as of September 2020.
Known for his controversial opinions and interviews, Rogan recently interviewed Dr. Robert Malone. Discussing the pandemic and vaccinations, the episode was banned from social media platforms. An open letter signed by almost 300 medical professionals called for Spotify to address the false information.
Joining Young in the move away from Spotify is fellow songwriter Joni Mitchell. However, others are rumored to be following in their footsteps. Other musicians, such as Taylor Swift, are being urged by fans to join in.
While misinformation about vaccines is incredibly harmful, is removing music from Spotify the appropriate move? Ultimately, these controversial opinions exist outside of Spotify, and no one is forced to listen to – or believe – Rogan.
Freedom of speech must also be considered. Spotify would certainly come under fire for silencing Rogan. But does Spotify’s contract signal an endorsement of such information? Clearly, Spotify has chosen to stick with Rogan and has let others go without much of a fight.
While Young’s move can be seen as powerful and important, he instantly turned to promote another platform, Amazon Music. Amazon’s treatment of employees and the ethics of founder Jeff Bezos certainly do not make Amazon feel like a better choice.
Focusing specifically on the Rogan issue, searching “Joe Rogan” on Amazon results in over seven thousand hits. Amazon certainly is not a Rogan-free zone, with books, merchandise, and other podcasts praising the podcaster.
The protest of Spotify has shown the power of consumers in our society. The platform has reportedly lost billions of dollars since Young’s announcement. Perhaps we should take this as a lesson and continue to use the power of our dollar to send a message to major corporations.
For those truly concerned, perhaps a reconsideration of what organizations they support is the best move. A lack of financial support can certainly send a message, but is it enough? Is there any company that is completely harm-free? Such companies that supposedly provide ethical products often come with such a hefty price tag, with most individuals feeling unable to participate.
Other musicians have taken to pandemic-related activism, protesting mandates about masks and vaccines.
Singer Kid Rock has threatened that any stops on his tour with mandates will be canceled.
On Facebook, the artist shared, “There’s been a lot of talk about vaccine mandates and venues. People saying, ‘I’m not going to that venue because of the vaccine mandate’ and this, that and the other. Trust me, we’ve done all our research on this and the consensus says that all this is going to be done, if there are any at these venues, I’m not aware of any, but if there are any, they’re going to be gone by the time we get to your city. If they’re not, trust me, you don’t have to worry. You’ll be getting your money back because I won’t be showing up either.”
So far, Kid Rock says he has decided against a stop in Buffalo, New York, and Toronto, Canada.
The singer claims to have been in conversation with former President Donald Trump, who is reportedly very proud of the artist’s decision to stand up against mandates. While the former president certainly opposed mandates, he also authorized an accelerated vaccine production process.
In another move to speak out against what Kid Rock feels is misinformation, a new song was released, titled We the People. Several lyrics bash current president Joe Biden, vaccines, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Like Rogan, Kid Rock is exercising his right to free speech and has the right to choose where to perform. However, with the pandemic continuing to claim lives and cause division, Kid Rock certainly is not creating the unity he claims to promote. It remains up to consumers to decide what narrative they want to support.