Neil Young pulled no punches in a blistering open letter to Spotify posted Wednesday. He accused the company of knowingly profiting off misinformation about COVID-19 and called it “the home of life threatening COVID misinformation. Lies being sold for money.”
The music streaming service has begun removing Young’s music from its platform after the “Heart of Gold” singer blasted the company for its deal with Joe Rogan, a podcaster who Young said promoted “fake information about vaccines” on The Joe Rogan Experience, the most popular podcast in the world. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.
“Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID,” Young wrote in a letter on his website. “I realized I could not continue to support Spotify’s life threatening misinformation to the music loving public.”
The move will be a financially damaging one for Young and Warner Bros., his record label, according to the musician. More than half of the people who stream his music do so via Spotify. According to Spotify’s own metrics, his songs enjoy over 6 million monthly listens, and 2.4 million people follow him.
“Thank you WARNER BROTHERS for standing with me and taking the hit—losing 60% of my world wide streaming income in the name of Truth,” he wrote.
Spotify responded, “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon. We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators.”
Rogan has an exclusive deal with Spotify to distribute his show, signed in May 2020. His contract is reportedly worth $100 million.
Young, who suffered from polio as a child, said that he first learned of Rogan’s forays into vaccine skepticism after more than 200 doctors signed an open letter to Spotify pleading for the company to develop a misinformation policy. In an earlier letter, Young wrote, “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Young wrote in his letter that he knew did not have the legal authority to withdraw his music from Spotify. He sold a 50 percent stake in his catalogue to a U.K. investment firm last January. Still, he said, “I announced I was leaving anyway, because I knew I was.” He thanked his record label for standing by him in the decision.
Young’s manager Frank Gironda previously told The Daily Beast, “It’s something that’s really important to Neil. He’s very upset about this disinformation.” He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Young said he was making the move so that young people tuning into Rogan’s show, who might be “impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth,” could be protected.
Representatives for Rogan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.