Neil Young to Spotify workers: ‘Get out before it eats your soul’

Young continues stand against streaming company, pinpointing CEO Daniel Ek for criticism

Neil Young has continued to criticise Spotify, following his departure from the platform in protest over their star podcaster Joe Rogan.

In a message posted to his website, Young wrote:

To the musicians and creators in the world, I say this: You must be able to find a better place than Spotify to be the home of your art.

To the workers at Spotify, I say [co-founder and chief executive officer] Daniel Ek is your big problem – not Joe Rogan. Ek pulls the strings. Get out of that place before it eats up your soul. The only goals stated by Ek are about numbers – not art, not creativity.

He also encouraged readers to divest from four US banks – Chase, Citi, Bank of America and Wells Fargo – “for their continued funding of the fossil fuel damage even as the global temperature keeps climbing”.

He addressed “baby boomers”, saying: “70% of the country’s financial assets are in your hands compared with just about 5% for millennials. You and I need to lead.”

Young, a consistently outspoken figure during his rock career who has taken stands against US presidents Richard Nixon, George Bush Jr and Donald Trump, left Spotify last month, describing it as “the home of life-threatening Covid misinformation. Selling lies for money.” He cited Joe Rogan, host of the world’s most popular podcast, who has been widely criticised for allowing misinformation about Covid-19 to proliferate on his show.

Other artists including Joni Mitchell joined his protest, with much of Mitchell’s catalogue now removed from Spotify.

Young has since been pointing his fans towards streaming companies with their own ethical controversies: Amazon and Apple. He tweeted: “Amazon has been leading the pack in bringing hi-res audio to the masses, and it’s a great place to enjoy my entire catalog [sic] in the highest quality available. Thanks also to Apple Music (I LOVE APPLE) and Qobuz for sticking with my high res music.”

Ek alluded to the Young-Rogan controversy in an earnings announcement on 2 February, saying: “Spotify is already implementing several first of its kind measures to help combat misinformation and provide greater transparency. We believe we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users.”

In a 1,100-word opening statement announcing Spotify’s successes, he used the word “music” only once.

Later, in a question and answer session, he discussed music in more depth – and in the terms that were criticised by Young.

He hailed how “we really replaced one model, right, which is you paid a la carte, which meant that typically the superfans were ones paying for music and the vast majority of people weren’t paying at all. Now we have an ecosystem where hundreds of millions of people are paying for music again across all of these subscription services.”

He said the company’s next aim was “unlocking through superfans. That’s where the real dollars comes in … more flexibility, more ways for creators to use their assets, videos, engage with people, have their content show up in new unexpected ways. That will drive engagement and that, in turn, will drive people to move from casual listeners all the way up to a superfan and enables new forms of monetisation, too.”

Since Young’s protest, Rogan has been further criticised for numerous uses of the N-word on his podcast, with the company removing more than 70 offending episodes. “While I strongly condemn what Joe has said ... I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek said in response.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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