Spotify to eliminate Neil Young’s music after his Joe Rogan Ultimatum

Spotify Technology HER

is removing Neil Young’s music, the company confirmed on Wednesday, as the folk-rock star isn’t shy about his objections to Joe Rogan’s podcast.

The “Heart of Gold” and “Harvest Moon” singer earlier this week penned an open letter to his manager and record label asking them to remove his music from the service, claiming he’s spreading false information about Covid-19 vaccines. 19 via Mr. Rogan’s show. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” he wrote.

Mr. Young’s label, Warner Music WMG -0.20%

Warner Records of Group Corp. officially asked Spotify to remove the music on Wednesday, which could take several hours to take effect on Spotify’s service around the world.

“We want all the music and audio content in the world to be available to Spotify users. With that comes a great responsibility to balance both the safety of listeners and the freedom of creators,” a Spotify spokesperson said Wednesday. The company has detailed content policies in place and has removed more than 20,000 Covid-19-related podcast episodes since the pandemic began, he added.

“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to see him again soon,” he said.

For Spotify, the controversy is a significant test of its big bet on Mr. Rogan, one of podcasting’s most popular and polarizing voices. Spotify struck a deal with Mr Rogan in 2020 worth more than $100 million, according to people familiar with the matter, putting its loyal subscribers and lucrative show exclusively at his service. Mr. Rogan is central to Spotify’s podcast strategy to drive listeners and advertising dollars to its platform and shows.

Although the letter has since been removed from Mr. Young’s website, he has since been in talks with his record label and Spotify, and has continued to hold firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Young and Mr. Rogan did not respond to requests for comment.

Prior to the takedown, Mr Young had 2.4 million subscribers and more than six million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Mr. Rogan’s show has already created tension for Spotify. Earlier this month, a group of 270 scientists and medical professionals signed an open letter to Spotify accusing the podcast of “promoting baseless conspiracy theories” and calling on the service to take action against misinformation events. mass on its platform.

Some employees expressed concern about the content of the podcast during a public meeting in September 2020, regarding material they believed to be anti-transgender, according to people familiar with the matter.

Joe Rogan is central to Spotify’s podcast strategy to drive listeners and ad dollars to its platform and shows.


Photo:

Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The company stood by its star podcaster, with chief executive Daniel Ek saying the ambition to make Spotify the “biggest audio platform in the world” involves embracing diverse voices and differing opinions as that the company is looking to expand into podcasting.

In 2018, Spotify introduced a “Hateful Content and Hateful Conduct” policy that sparked a debate over whether streaming services should punish artists for alleged bad behavior. He faced backlash in the music industry and backed out of politics three weeks later.

By removing his music from Spotify, Mr. Young will not collect the royalties associated with the airing of his songs there, which are split between him, his record label, his publisher and other rights holders to his music.

While Mr. Young’s label is Spotify’s licensor and legally controls how and where his music is distributed, it’s typical for a record label to consider an artist’s wishes. One act of Mr. Young’s stamp in particular tends to have more control over his career and creative output.

Last year, the listed music investment firm Hipgnosis Songs Fund ltd.

announced an agreement to buy a 50% stake in Neil Young’s songwriting catalog. The sale brought in between $40 million and $50 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Although Hipgnosis investors benefit from royalties when Mr. Young’s music is streamed on Spotify and other services, they have no say in the fight with Spotify.

Streaming accounts for 84% of recorded music revenue in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Spotify is by far the largest paid subscription music streaming service.

Classic tunes like those found in Mr. Young’s catalog, in particular, have been streaming well, as the services attract older subscribers and younger listeners discover favorites from their elders.

During the pandemic, listening nostalgia has increased even further. On streaming services, music older than 18 months is a major growth area, accounting for some 70% of listener consumption, according to MRC Data, formerly Nielsen Music.

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com

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