Entertainment And News

What Spotify’s Neil Young & Joe Rogan Controversy Says About The True Cost Of Misinformation

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Joe Rogan and Neil Young

Spotify, Joe Rogan, and Neil Young.

A few weeks ago, if you read these names out to someone and asked them what their significance is or how they relate to one another, you’d probably just say both men are on Spotify — well that’s exactly the problem we’re seeing.

Neil Young, in a last-ditch effort to remain on Spotify lest they lose his respect, asked them to remove the misinformation mania that is the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast from the platform or he’d pull all his music from their streaming services.

Needless to say, Spotify didn't take action against Rogan's wildly popular podcast so Young will now be pulling his discography from the platform.

Spotify siding with Joe Rogan shows the true price of misinformation in the United States.

Ahh the global pandemic. Never in the history of civilization has there ever been a more politically divisive event in the United States — well, besides maybe Civil War but you get the point.

The COVID problem has shown just how much power misinformation has — when one side takes a stance with scientific evidence and public health, the other side has no choice but to take the other side with people like Joe Rogan.

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You see, in the late Spring of 2020, just after the month-long lockdown the country went through to stay the hand of the beast that was approaching (which didn’t work as intended), the Joe Rogan Experience was catching a lot of wind.

Not that it wasn’t already famous. By this point, he had already had smash hit celebrities on the podcast like Elon Musk and Alex Jones, but now everyone was forced to stay inside or catch the virus.

Spotify saw this and slapped Rogan with a $100 million dollar business deal to put his entire library of podcast episodes (he has over 1700) on Spotify and to be exclusive with the platform for several years to come.

This was all before the storm of COVID misinformation stuff started happening — the vaccines didn’t exist yet, masks were still slowly becoming commonplace, and general fear of the virus was still settling into everyone’s hearts.

Now, Rogan has an estimated average of 11 million listeners per episode and is constantly slammed by doctors and scientists for being one of the largest spreaders of misinformation in the country — according to these doctors themselves.

In Rogan's December 31st episode in 2021 he featured Dr. Robert Malone, a former virologist-turned-anti-vaxxer.

Some good points were made — Malone said vaccines shouldn't be politicized, all sides likely agree on that. But when it came to his so-called "scientific" argument against vaccines, much of what he said was provably false — such as falsely stating that getting vaccinated puts people who already have had COVID-19 at higher risk.

Then, a large “coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators spanning a wide range of fields such as microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and neuroscience,” wrote an open letter to Spotify to condemn these actions and remove the Joe Rogan Experience from the platform.

This, as you could guess, went nowhere and Rogan remains.

More recently, however, Young decided to take his fight to Spotify, much to his expense now — considering reports that he would lose approximately 70% of his streaming revenue after being pulled from Spotify.

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The problem is how people like Joe Rogan and misinformation about COVID gets treated.

The purpose of a podcast — and the entire Spotify streaming service — it to entertain. Providing factual information feels like an afterthought for the platform.

It’s the same reason someone like Tucker Carlson can exist on FOX News on his own segment because his views are his own and he’s not explicitly trying to pass off his opinions as facts — at least, that’s what corporate says.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have only recently caught on to moderate the spread of misinformation and even they are slacking at time.

Perhaps, like these platforms, Spotify is only now catching on to the reality that they are a place where a massive amount of people get their news and information from — hence, in future they have to crack down on COVID misinformation and even permanently ban people who didn’t follow their guidelines. But that hasn't happened yet.

The bottom line is that Rogan is making Spotify a lot of money — as someone who posts a podcast episode nearly every other day to average 11 million listeners — and they’ve also spent a lot of money on him.

He’s an investment they’re just not so willing to give up, and his followers and fans are so loyal to his brand that it wouldn’t even matter if Spotify pulled him, so it’s almost a zero-sum situation.

The only thing that Spotify could do at this point if they truly cared about COVID misinformation — which they likely don’t — is to renegotiate the terms of the contract they have with him in order to provide them with more control over the things he says and stopping him from spreading the misinformation he does.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.