Joni Mitchell Joins Neil Young in Yanking Her Material From Spotify

Joni Mitchell announced on her website Friday night that she would remove her entire catalog from Spotify. She is now the second high-profile musician who emerged on the scene in the late 1960s to make such a move. In a post titled, “I Stand With Neil Young!” Mitchell wrote: “I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

She linked to an open letter to Spotify signed by scores of doctors, nurses, professors, and scientists condemning a December 31 appearance by Dr. Robert Malone on The Joe Rogan Experience. The show, exclusive to Spotify’s platform, is led by Joe Rogan, the former Fear Factor host turned ivermectin enthusiast who lately appeals to the types of people “just asking questions.” On the episode, Dr. Malone, a vaccine skeptic who has been banned from Twitter, asserted an unfounded “mass formation psychosistheory concerning the public’s acceptance of COVID-19 protocols and compared the current climate promoting such measures to Nazi Germany. The episode was deleted from YouTube but remains on Spotify via a licensing deal reportedly worth over $100 million

 The letter from public health experts accuses Spotify of “allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions” concerning COVID-19. “Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals.”

Earlier in the week, Mitchell’s friend and fellow Canadian, Neil Young, had nearly all of his catalogue removed from the streaming 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,” he reportedly wrote in a note to his management, which was published on his site and later deleted. He added, “They can have Young or Rogan. Not both.”

Spotify has yet to publicly respond to either musician. While Mitchell and Young’s actions may seem, at first, like aging hippies tilting at digital windmills, Variety reports that the company has lost over $2 billion in market capitalization after Young took his stand. The San Fransisco Chronicle’s Datebook puts the number at $4 billion. (The depreciation in value does not take Mitchell’s reinforcement into account.)

Young posted a new note to his site on Friday, in which he wrote that he preferred the audio quality on music services provided by Amazon, Apple, and Qobuz. In bold, he added: “I support free speech. I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.”

David Crosby, who has, to put it delicately, a nuanced relationship with Young, has supported his former bandmate’s action against Spotify. (In a 2019 interview with V.F., Crosby was blunt in his appraisal of the streaming service: “They are stealing our shit,” he said.)

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The Qobuz service, which offers curated playlists in high resolution, just so happens to have a “Best of Neil Young Live” promotion atop their homepage.

Young’s 50+ years of music is entirely gone from Spotify, minus a few stray tracks that appear on movie soundtracks (this is likely the first time Inherent Vice and Bright will be mentioned in the same breath) and special concert appearances (like his outstanding cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” at 1992’s Bobfest at Madison Square Garden). Spotify also still has his work with early groups such as Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. As of this report, Mitchell’s work has somewhat disappeared from the platform. If one dials up her 1971 masterwork album Blue, many songs are still streamable, but they pull from complications like “Sad Songs,” not the album itself.

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