September 30, 2023


Arts Eternal

Neil Young to Spotify employees: Daniel Ek is the problem

Neil Young has taken his campaign against Spotify directly to the desk of its CEO, Daniel Ek.

In a new missive from his personal site, Young lambastes the Swedish tech executive for Spotify’s alleged practices of underpaying artists and allowing top podcaster Joe Rogan to promote vaccine misinformation.

“To the musicians and creators in this 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 Daniel Ek is your problem — not Joe Rogan. Ek pulls the strings. Get out of the place before it eats up your soul. The goals stated by Ek are about numbers — not art, not creativity.”

Young’s new remarks come two weeks after the singer pulled his entire catalog from the streaming service in protest of Rogan’s dalliances with vaccine misinformation. Young, a polio survivor, kicked off a small but growing rebellion against the service as artists — including his lifelong friend Joni Mitchell, India Arie and podcasters like Brené Brown and Roxane Gay — withdrew their work as well. Many artists have likewise called for a boycott of Spotify for a variety of reasons, including its royalty payments to artists, which amount to tiny fractions of a penny per stream.

Spotify’s stock had dropped by nearly 25% so far in 2022, even before Young pulled his catalog.

In response to the furor, Ek said that Spotify has no pans to end its arrangement with Rogan. Spotify reportedly paid him $100 million for exclusive rights to distribute his podcast, though the service has removed dozens of “The Joe Rogan Experience” episodes in which Rogan used racist slurs. The service also has vowed to spend $100 million on content from marginalized groups and to place a disclaimer before episodes that discuss COVID-19 and vaccination.

“I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote in a letter to Spotify staff. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”

Young, in his statement, also called on his boomer generation to take the lead in the fight against climate change. “To baby boomers, I say that 70 percent of your country’s financial assets are in your hands compared with just 5 percent for millennials,” he wrote. “You and I need to lead. In our age of Climate Chaos, I say ditch the companies contributing to the mass fossil fuel destruction of Earth.

“Then be free and take the good path.”