Neil Young wasn’t bluffing.
Spotify confirmed on Wednesday that it has begun removing Young’s music from the streaming service, two days after the star briefly posted a public letter urging Spotify to choose between him and Joe Rogan, its star podcast host. accused of spreading misinformation about the streaming service. coronavirus and vaccines.
Young’s challenge to Spotify has become a high-profile, if unexpected, flashpoint in the battle for misinformation and free speech online. It also raised questions about the power of performers to determine where their work is heard.
In a second statement posted to its website on Wednesday, Young called Spotify “home of life-threatening Covid misinformation.” He added: “Lies are being sold for money.”
His criticism of Rogan — a comedian and actor who has become Spotify’s most popular podcast host and sometimes speaks at length with controversial figures — came after a group of hundreds of scientists, professors and public health experts asked Spotify to remove an episode of Rogan’s. show from December 31. That episode, with Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease expert, promoted “several falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines,” according to the group’s public letter, issued Jan. 10.
In a statement on Wednesday, Spotify said: “We want all of the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. That comes with a great responsibility in balancing both security for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies and we have removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic.”
“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify,” the service added, “but hope to welcome him back soon.”
Young’s most popular songs, such as “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon,” and “Old Man,” have been radioactive for decades, attracting hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. In his statement on Wednesday, Young said Spotify represented 60 percent of the streams of his music around the world.
Young’s music was expected to be completely removed from Spotify within hours. News that the service would be removing its songs was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In his original letter, which Young addressed to his label Warner Records and his manager, he said: “Spotify has a responsibility to reduce the spread of misinformation on its platform. I want you to immediately notify Spotify TODAY that I have already want to get my music off their platform.”
He added: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
That letter was removed from Young’s website shortly after it was posted, although it attracted considerable attention from the news media.
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Rogan, a comedian and actor, signed an exclusive podcast deal with Spotify in 2020 that is reportedly worth $100 million, although Spotify has not confirmed that figure. His show is the most popular on Spotify.
Spotify has defended Rogan in the past, including after an episode with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in 2020.
“We want creators to create,” Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive and co-founder, told The Financial Times at the time. “That’s what they do best. We don’t want to play a part in what they should say.”
Spotify has 318 million monthly listeners worldwide, including 172 million who pay for subscriptions, according to the company’s most recent financial disclosures.
In the past, Young has removed his music from streaming services, only to quietly reinstate it. In 2015, after raising complaints about streaming sound quality, he pulled his music from all major audio streaming services, including Spotify and its biggest rival, Apple Music. But shortly after, it was added again.
Jenny Gross reporting contributed.