Several Musicians Pulling Music From Spotify in Protest of Joe Rogan and Vaccine Misinformation

By  //  February 7, 2022

Spotify is currently at the center of a controversy involving COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.  At the end of January, musician Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify over objections to false claims about vaccines on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Since then, a handful of musicians have joined the protest. Spotify, Joe Rogan, and The White House have weighed in their opinions.

How did the Spotify Boycott Start?

Neil Young began the protest after writing to his record label and manager the following:

I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform… 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.

Young included an open letter that contained signatures from over 250 researchers, professors, and medical professionals that wanted to pull COVID misinformation from the platform. Since the letter’s original publication on January 12th, 1,000 more professionals have signed it.

More musicians are joining in on the protest, including India Arie. The latest news on Bruce Springsteen suggests that his band member, Nils Lofgren, has also pulled his music.

What Was Spotify’s Response?

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded to the controversy on January 30th, explaining that his platform won’t be a “content censor,” but plans to make Spotify’s terms easier to find. 

He admitted that Spotify hasn’t been transparent about what constitutes misinformation and what doesn’t. On the “Spotify Platform Rules” page, “COVID-19 Misinformation” includes encouraging bleach consumption, saying that vaccines lead to death, among other things.

Ek will be working on adding a content advisory to podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19. He also said that Rogan’s podcast was important to Spotify’s “achieving (their) bold ambitions.” 

Ek goes on to say that scaling the Spotify business…will mean having content on Spotify that many of us may not be proud to be associated with.” It’s unclear if Ek agrees with Joe Rogan’s statements or whether he doesn’t want to associate with Rogan’s ideas solely.

What Was The White House’s Response?

White House press secretary Jen Psaki agreed that adding a COVID-19 content advisor to podcasts that discussed vaccines would be “a positive step.” Psaki went on to say that all major tech platforms and news sources are responsible for providing accurate info to the public.

During the conference, Psaki referred to warnings made by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy about the dangers of misinformation, which he stated as being an “urgent threat.

What Was Joe Rogan’s Response?

Joe Rogan responded to the allegations on January 30th on Instagram. He began the video by stating there were two episodes in particular that Young took issue with: one featuring Peter McCullough, a cardiologist, and one featuring Robert Malone, an infectious-disease specialist.

McCullough stated that vaccines are experimental, that previously infected people have “permanent immunity,” that vaccines have killed thousands of people, among other things. 

Malone has stated most of the same information as McCullough but went on to comment on to say that the new variant, Omnicron, is milder and evades immunity. The WHO and the majority of the medical community disagree with Malone’s and McCullough’s statements.

Rogan defended Malone’s and McCullough’s statements on his podcast by stating that he wants to understand the “truth” of the situation and will bring people with different opinions to his show.

Rogan responded to musicians taking their music off of Spotify by saying: “I’m very sorry that they feel that way. I most certainly don’t want that.” 

Rogan says that his podcast episodes are “just conversations” but has actively discouraged people from getting the vaccine by saying, “But if you’re, like, 21 years old and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’d go, ‘No,” on his April 23rd, 2021 episode with Dave Smith.