Spotify boycott by Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others over COVID misinformation

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Neil Young & Joni Mitchell (Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


Over the past week, Spotify has become the target of a growing boycott campaign by prominent artists and celebrities ignited by the platform’s alleged inactivity in the face of COVID misinformation.

The boycott was sparked by legendary folk-rock musician Neil Young. In asince-deleted open letter,Young criticised Joe Rogan and Spotify for spreading misinformation about vaccines.

Rogan’sThe Joe Rogan Experiencepodcast has been the primary concern of boycotters, particularly following his interview with anti-vaccination activist Dr Robert Malone.

“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” stated Young.

Young has since been joined in his boycott by 70s music iconJoni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen guitaristNils Lofgren, and best-selling author and podcasterBrené Brown. David Crosby of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash fame has expressed his support but is unable to participate due to no longer owning the rights to his music.

I no longer control it or I would in support of Neil

— David Crosby (@thedavidcrosby)January 29, 2022

EvenPrince Harry and Meghan Marklehave spoken out about their concern over COVID misinformation on the platform. However, they remain committed to their business partnership with Spotify.

Spotify boughtThe Joe Rogan Experiencein 2020 for reportedly over $100 million. It is the platform’s most popular podcast by far.

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In the Rogan interview, Malone characterised society’s push for vaccination as a“mass formation psychosis”which paralleled that of Nazi Germany. This prompted YouTube to remove the clips Rogan had posted to their site.

Earlier in January, 270 medical professionals wrote anopen letterto Spotify requesting action against Rogan’s podcast for spreading misinformation.

Rogan has since posted a video to his Instagram apologising to Spotify and the boycotting artists. He has backed the platform’s decision to include content warnings on controversial episodes such as these.

“I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than talk to people and have interesting conversations,” said Rogan. “My pledge to you is that I will try my best to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so that we can maybe find a better point of view.”

In the three days following Young’s January 25 boycott announcement,Spotify lost around $2 billion in market value. Spotify has since mostly recovered financially but Young and Mitchell's music remains gone.

Importantly, all of the boycotters so far have been established artists capable of sustaining themselves without Spotify. Many contemporary musicians lack this capacity and so the boycott has been limited in scope.