Image courtesy Wikepedia commons

One funny thing I noticed when I googled “Neil Young” this week: The Spotify icon is still the first choice in the results page’s “Listen” section, despite the fact that the iconoclastic classic rocker is currently in the news for removing his music from the streaming service, following through with the “find out” conclusion of Spotify’s choice to fuck around with him about Joe Rogan and the specious COVID-related content that the comedian/podcaster gives air to on his podcast. Is Spotify presuming Young will get over himself and restore his catalog now that the company has promised to put a content warning on Rogan’s episodes, and is that an easier route to take than getting Google to remove their service as a channel for listening to Neil Young? Is it just an oversight? Don’t you have On the Beach on vinyl anyway?

I don’t know, and I don’t really care. For one thing, there are already enough opinions about this already. From that very same search page, Politico warned of “The Dangerous Appeal of Neil Young’s Righteous Censorship,” while CNN declared that “Neil Young puts his finger on America’s big divide.” Rolling Stone giddily tossed off the clickbait-y “Nash, Young Reunite Against Spotify,” referring to Neil’s former bandmate, Graham Nash, while Fox News predictably gave Rogan a big, slappy bro-hug, commending him for hitting “the right note after Neil Young’s attack.”

Moreover, I don’t even care that the other legacy artists — which, at the time of this writing, include Joni Mitchell, E Street Band guitarist and songwriter Nils Lofgren, the aforementioned Nash, and India Arie — are joining Young in his exodus in protest. Good for them, I guess, even though none of them are going to have trouble keeping the lights on over this. I applaud the symbolism of their stances, and now I’d like to go back to what I was doing, because even if Rogan has a content warning on his show and even though Rogan promised to “have all the pertinent facts on hand before I discuss them,” wouldn’t you say that the great ship of policing Spotify content has already sailed? Or, to borrow from Young himself, wouldn’t you say the damage is done?


I was 7 years old when Tipper Gore’s Parents Resource Music Center debuted, and by the time I was old enough to buy my own music, I knew that a cassette or a CD with that black-and-white Parental Advisory sticker was an absolute must-buy. And thinking about that, I can only imagine that this drama is good for Rogan, for Spotify, and, I suppose, for Amazon, the music streaming service that Young is currently promoting as an alternative to the one he just peaced out on. So really, Young’s noble intention will cause ignoble waves, motivating people who were previously ignorant of Rogan or merely Rogan-curious to finally wade in and see what flavor of Kool-Aid he’s putting in his water, regardless of whatever digital sticker Spotify slaps on his page. And that points to another reason I don’t care about this story: Unless Spotify’s listeners abandon the service en masse over controversial content, nothing will change. Per that assertion, I have to ask: Are you willing to cancel your Spotify account?

I, for one, am not, even though I know full well how little artists make from the platform and even though I know its compression is terrible and makes everything sound shitty and even though they’re still hosting Joe Rogan. The fact is that even though Spotify’s policies, business model, and quality kind of suck, the service is too convenient, and it mostly lines up in ways that don’t actively harm my life, never mind that it’s been a part of my life for a really long time. It’s the same as Amazon and Exxon, AT&T and Target, the Democratic party and every scrap of clothing I’ve ever worn that came from a developing nation, undoubtedly produced in a miasma of exploitative conditions. What do you want from me? I’m an American. I try to do the right thing much of the time, but other times, I just can’t be bothered, and I bet that’s the same for you, too. Because whether you listened to Neil Young on your Spotify subscription or on vinyl, you’re still spending money in the system that profits from whoever is the biggest, the boldest, and the loudest. If Spotify cared about anything other than that money, they wouldn’t have signed Rogan to begin with. To borrow from Young yet again, rock ’n’ roll will never die, not as long as there are people to spend money on it.


  1. I quit using Spotify once I realized that they were thieves. That was years ago.

    If you can afford to buy recorded music the old-fashioned way, such that the artists actually get paid, then you have a moral obligation to do that, IMO.

  2. Steve Stewart seems to be Is an inert consumer in dissident’s clothing. Dissidents is not and never has been a venue for the swathful.