Graham Nash, India.Arie and Failure pull music from Spotify in Joe Rogan row

Despite Spotify’s published guidelines, artists are still unhappy with the platform.

More artists have left Spotify due to the platform’s exclusive deal with controversial podcaster Joe Rogan. Singer-songwriters India.Arie and Graham Nash, as well as alt-rockers Failure, have pulled their music from the streaming platform.

The exodus was kickstarted by Neil Young, who gave Spotify an ultimatum: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not Both.” He claimed that, due to The Joe Rogan Experience, Spotify had become a source for COVID-19 misinformation. “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” he wrote. Joni Mitchell soon pulled her music from Spotify in solidarity with Young.

Graham Nash, who played alongside Young in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, has now also pulled his music from Spotify’s catalogue. He said in a statement: “Having heard the Covid disinformation spread by Joe Rogan on Spotify, I completely agree with and support my friend Neil Young and I am requesting that my solo recordings be removed from the service. There is a difference between being open to varying viewpoints on a matter and knowingly spreading false information which some 270 medical professionals have derided as not only false but dangerous.

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“The opinions publicised by Rogan are so dishonest and unsupported by solid facts that Spotify becomes an enabler in a way that costs people their lives.”

India.Arie also released a statement saying that alongside Rogan’s conversations with controversial medical figures, it’s also his language surrounding race that has prompted her to pull her music and her podcast SongVersation from the platform. “Neil Young opened a door that I must walk through,” she wrote on Instagram. “I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons other than his COVID interviews… for me it’s also his language around race.”

“What I am talking about is respect – who gets it and who doesn’t. Paying musicians a fraction of a penny? And HIM $100M? This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep. I’m tired.”

Most recently, Rogan hit headlines for non-COVID related reasons due to comments he made to Jordan Peterson. Rogan said it was “strange” to call someone Black “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.”

The comments sparked outrage, specifically from author Eric Dyson, who Rogan and Peterson were discussing at the time. “Clearly they haven’t kept up with discussion about how race isn’t just about skin tone or colour, but about a host of meanings determined in the social world,” Dyson said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Blackness is not about shade, but about the shade provided by traditions of Black thought, culture, and resistance.”

Finally, alternative rock band Failure have decided to part ways with Spotify for a handful of reasons. In a statement, they framed the recent COVID-19 misinformation controversy and the straw that broke the camel’s back, as they also criticised Spotify’s meagre royalty payments.

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“Artists who want to have their music heard by the most ears possible have had a tough decision to make. Do we give our music to a company that devalues our product to the point where royalty checks from Spotify have become the butt of humorous memes, or do we withhold our music from the platform and supposedly miss out on an ‘entire generation of music listeners?’

“That is exactly where Failure have been since 2015 when we released our first album since reuniting. Acquiescing to the desire for more ear holes. But now, with Spotify’s recent policy shift that allows COVID vaccine misinformation to thrive on their platform, Failure have decided that enough is enough.”

The band encouraged their fans to purchase their music on Bandcamp, or stream it elsewhere.

Spotify has responded to the controversy by publishing its content guidelines, which were previously private. The guidelines do prohibit dangerous medical misinformation, but the examples given are non-exhaustive. The brand also did not mention Rogan by name in any responses to the criticism.

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