By Anjali Nayak
Spotify has faced calls for weeks to take action against Joe Rogan, the mega-popular podcast host, after Mr. Rogan was accused of promoting Covid-19 misinformation on his show, including hosting a guest who had been barred by Twitter for spreading false information. Twitter critics have compared snippets of Mr. Rogan’s interviews with Spotify’s stated rules, which prohibit material “that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive content about Covid-19.” Two folk-rock legends, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell led the boycott, pulling their legendary catalogs from Spotify last week in protest of the platform’s decision to support Mr. Rogan. Brene Brown, another popular host, soon followed, saying she would not release new episodes of her Spotify-exclusive podcast “until further notice.”
Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek has published a blog post on Sunday, defending the company’s commitment to free expression and saying that “it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor.” In short, Spotify has declined to take action against Mr. Rogan. But, there is one very obvious elephant in the room as to why they wouldn’t. For one, Spotify isn’t merely one of many apps that distribute Mr. Rogan’s podcast. The platform paid more than 100 million dollars for exclusive rights to the podcast, making him the headline act for its growing podcast division. Spotify has almost aggressively promoted Mr. Rogan’s show inside its app, giving the company more responsibility for his show than others it carries.
But Spotify has a different constituency to worry about: stars. As a leading music streaming service, Spotify needs to have popular hits in its library, which means that, in theory, musicians with enough firepower could force change simply by threatening to remove their albums. Honestly, with the number of insanely zealous swifties (me included) Taylor Swift could end Joe Rogan with a single tweet at Spotify. Joni Mitchell and Neil Young are quite literally legends (which is a HUGE understatement), and the only way for there to be true change is for other artists to follow suit.