“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
That’s the ultimatum that rock legend Neil Young gave his management team and record label on Monday night, demanding they remove his music from Spotify’s streaming platform because it also hosts Joe Rogan’s podcast, which Young says is spreading dangerous disinformation about COVID-19, “potentially causing death to those who believe” it.
“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines,” Young wrote in a now-deleted open letter he posted on his website. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”
The letter was addressed to his manager, Frank Gironda, and to Tom Corson, the co-chairman and chief operating officer of Warner Records, which releases Young’s music through its Reprise Records imprint.
“With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, [the Joe Rogan Experience podcast], which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence,” Young added.
“Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy,” he wrote, adding: “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform.”
Rogan, Gironda, Corson, and Spotify did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment about the letter.
Gironda, speaking to the Daily Beast, confirmed the letter’s authenticity, adding: “It’s something that’s really important to Neil. He’s very upset. We’re trying to figure this out right now.”
As of early Tuesday morning, Young’s music was still accessible on Spotify. Young temporarily removed his music from Spotify several years ago over sound quality issues.
Rogan, who inked an exclusive $100 million deal with Spotify in 2020, has a listenership of around 200 million, making him one of the most influential voices in the world.
Over the course of the pandemic, Rogan has used that position to boost discredited or debunked science about the pandemic, claimed that young, healthy people didn’t need vaccines, and given a platform to multiple people who are renowned for spreading false claims about COVID-19.
While Rogan has at times admitted he’s made mistakes—he called himself a “fucking moron” for claiming young people didn’t need vaccines—he continues to give credence to debunked theories about COVID-19 and vaccines.
Recently, he hosted Robert Malone, a controversial doctor who claims to have helped invent the mRNA technology currently being used in COVID-19 vaccines. Malone, who’s been discredited and denounced by medical professionals for spreading inaccurate and potentially dangerous misinformation, was recently banned from Twitter.
But Rogan gave him a platform to continue to spread his lies.
As a result of Malone’s appearance, 270 scientists, doctors, healthcare workers and professors signed an open letter slamming Rogan as “a menace to public health” and calling on Spotify to establish a misinformation policy.
Despite sustained and public criticism of Rogan, Spotify has done nothing, and for the tens of millions of people who listen to Rogan every week, the criticism from an ageing rocker means very little.
“I think we can all agree (Rogan fans and haters) that the loss of Neil Young’s boomer music on Spotify is not a loss at all,” one member of the Joe Rogan Experience channel on Reddit wrote in response to Young’s ultimatum.
Over on the Joe Rogan Experience Discord server, fans of the podcast host were similarly dismissive of Young’s letter and his music.
“I've never once heard someone say ‘check out this dope Neil Young’ song,” one user wrote.
Another, called Flesh Gordon, added: “Spotty gettin that free press. These social justice warrior virtue signaling dorks are like the really bad entry level WWE of streaming.”
Some users suggested Young’s letter was all just “posturing,” but others said his stance was based on biased media coverage of Rogan:
“It's probably outrage manufactured from his reading of the same biased bullshit sources everyone else gets their outrage from so he feels the need to use his status to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT.”
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.