On Tuesday, four-time Grammy-winner India Arie added her name to a small but growing cadre of artists who have joined Neil Young in distancing themselves from the popular streaming platform.
"I have decided to pull my music and podcast from Spotify. Neil Young opened a door that I must walk through," the singer posted on Instagram. "I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons other than his Covid interviews."
Arie said her issues with Rogan were his "language around race", referring to a recent interview on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in which he made offensive comments about African nations and said it was "weird" to use the term "black" as an identifier.
"Unless you're talking to someone who is like 100 per cent African, from the darkest place, where they're not wearing any clothes all day, and they've developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, you know, even the term 'black' is weird," Rogan said last week, during a conversation with his guest Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and climate change sceptic.
Arie also called out Spotify and its deal with Rogan, thought to be worth more than $100 million.
"Paying musicians a fraction of a penny? And him $100m?" she wrote. "This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep," she concluded. "I'm tired."
Who's boycotting Spotify?
Last week, Young, who had 2.4 million followers and more than six million monthly listeners on Spotify, sent an ultimatum to the Swedish streaming service demanding that it remove his music from the platform unless it dropped The Joe Rogan Experience.
"I realised I could not continue to support Spotify's life-threatening misinformation to the music-loving public," Young said in an open letter.
Rogan, 54, whose show is the platform's most popular, recently came under fire from medical professionals who accused him of peddling conspiracy theories. He has also in the past discouraged vaccination in young people and promoted the off-label use of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to treat the virus. He's also interviewed Dr Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist who has been banned from Twitter for spreading Covid-19 misinformation.
One day after Spotify began removing Young's music from its platform, singer Joni Mitchell joined the fray, saying she's also removing her music from Spotify "in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell said in a message posted on her website.
Other musicians and podcasters have since joined the growing list, including Nils Lofgren, long-time guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and Young's former bandmates David Crosby and Graham Nash from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Britain's Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, also expressed their concern to Spotify about Covid-19 misinformation on its platform, but said they were committed to continuing to work with the company, a representative for their Archewell foundation said.
In a tweet, bestselling author Brene Brown – host of the Spotify-exclusive podcasts Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead – said she would "not be releasing any podcasts until further notice".
Essayist and author of Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay, also announced that she had removed her podcast, The Roxane Gay Agenda, from Spotify.
“It won’t move any sort of needle but I removed my podcast from Spotify,” she tweeted. “That’s all there really is to say about that. Onward.”
Author and psychologist Mary Trump, the niece of former US president Donald Trump, also announced that she was pulling her podcast.
“I know it’s not a big deal but hope it will be part of a growing avalanche,” she wrote on Twitter, thanking Young, Mitchell and Lofgren for their "courage in leading the way".
In another tweet, Mary urged Spotify to "get rid of Joe Rogan's show", sharing the #DeleteSpotfy hashtag with her followers.
"Check out my new podcast – available everywhere you listen – except Spotify," she said.
Alternative rock band Failure joined the boycott on Tuesday and said they were "parting ways with Spotify".
"With Spotify’s recent policy shift that allows Covid vaccine misinformation to thrive on their platform, Failure have decided that enough is enough," the Los Angeles group posted on Facebook. "Beyond the moral issues raised by Spotify’s Covid decision, the issue of vaccine misinformation and how it directly affects the current situation in the live music space is simply untenable."
Joe Rogan's supporters
Following mounting pressure, Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek said the platform would add a disclaimer to any podcast episode that discusses Covid-19.
"This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days," Ek wrote in a blog post. "To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform."
Rogan himself has addressed the issue, saying he agreed with Spotify's decision to include an advisory, in a nearly 10-minute-long video posted on Instagram.
“If there’s anything that I’ve done that I could do better, it’s having more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones,” Rogan said. “I would most certainly be open to doing that. And I would like to talk to some people who have differing opinions on the podcasts in the future. I do all the scheduling myself and I don’t always get it right.”
The former stand-up comedian and UFC commentator also has a number of supporters in his corner, most prominently actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, whose comment on Rogan's video has divided fans.
"Great stuff here brother. Perfectly articulated. Look forward to coming on," Johnson responded to Rogan's video, which has received thousands of replies.
"Wow. Unbelievably disappointed. I can't support you if you're going to support the spread of information that will get people killed. Sorry Rock. You lost a fan," one reply read.
Pieces of You singer Jewel also praised Rogan, posting “You’re doing a great job. Keep it up."
American DJ Kaskade wrote, "Nailed it!"
While not entirely in Rogan's camp, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who dedicated a segment to the ongoing controversy, called the podcaster's apology "refreshing".
“I actually thought it was pretty classy,” Noah said, joking that he “half-expected” Rogan to come out and say that his podcast was hacked. “But instead, he owned up to it. I thought it was pretty dope.”
Noah clarified that he was "not trying to defend Joe Rogan".
He is "not wrong in saying that he sometimes brings people on who say the opposite", Noah said. "But because of the internet age that we live in, we don’t give [people] the full context."
By the end of the nine-minute segment, however, Noah realised what the main takeaway from it would be.
“Now there’s going to be a headline: ‘Trevor Noah defends Joe Rogan.’ That’s all they’re going to cut out. Or ‘Trevor Noah slams Joe Rogan'," he said. “Welcome to the internet."
Watch the segment below:
On Thursday, Jon Stewart, who Noah succeeded on The Daily Show, said it was a "mistake" for artists to remove their works from Spotify in protest. Speaking on his podcast, The Problem With Jon Stewart, named after his current affairs show on Apple TV+, Stewart called the backlash an "overreaction" and "overblown".
Instead, he said, Rogan was the kind of person who needed to be engaged with.
"There's no question that there is egregious misinformation that's purposeful and hateful, and that being moderated is a credit to the platforms that run them," Stewart said.
"I think there are dishonest bad actors in the world and identifying those is so much more important to me. Don't leave. Don't abandon. Don't censor. Engage."
– This article was first published on February 3, 2022