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‘Rogan or me’: Neil Young leaves Spotify over antivax podcast

Veteran rock star’s music to be removed from streaming service after he protested podcast featuring prominent figure who spreads COVID misinformation

This combination photo shows Neil Young on May 18, 2016, left, and Joe Rogan on Dec. 7, 2012 (AP Photo)
This combination photo shows Neil Young on May 18, 2016, left, and Joe Rogan on Dec. 7, 2012 (AP Photo)

Neil Young’s music will be removed from Spotify at his request, following the veteran rock star’s protest over the streaming service airing a popular podcast that featured a figure criticized for spreading COVID misinformation.

Spotify, in a statement on Wednesday, said that it regretted Young’s decision, “but hope to welcome him back soon.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when his music will actually be taken down.

“I realized I could not continue to support Spotify’s life-threatening misinformation to the music loving people,” Young said in a statement.

“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,” wrote the legendary singer behind “Heart of Gold” and “Harvest Moon.”

“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” the singer wrote in a statement that was later removed from his website.

Young had asked his management and record company publicly on Monday to remove his music from the popular streaming service, where he had more than six million monthly listeners, according to his Spotify home page.

Spotify airs the popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” where last month the comedian interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist who has become a hero in the anti-vaccine community.

Malone has been banned from Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation and has falsely suggested that millions of people have been hypnotized into believing that the vaccines work to prevent serious disease.

Rogan has discouraged vaccination in younger people and promoted off-label use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to treat the virus. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says ivermectin should not be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Robert Malone, July 22, 2020, in Madison, Virginia (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In December 270 doctors, physicians and professors signed an open letter to Spotify asking the service to “moderate misinformation on its platform.”

“It is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform,” read the letter.

Spotify said in a statement on Thursday that “we have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.”

The company says it has a team of experts that reviews content, and it’s removed if the information presented can cause harm or pose a direct threat to public health. False suggestions that injecting bleach could fight the virus, that COVID-19 wasn’t real or that vaccines could be deadly were among those removed from the platform.

Spotify would not comment on Rogan’s podcast.

Young said that many of Spotify’s listeners are hearing misleading information about COVID. They’re young, “impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth,” he said.

“These young people believe Spotify would never present grossly unfactual information,” he said. “They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out.”

Neil Young poses for a portrait in Santa Monica, California on Sept. 9, 2019 (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)

He said he appreciated his record company, Warner Brothers, standing behind him, since Spotify is responsible for 60 percent of his music being streamed all over the world. He said it was “a huge loss for my record company to absorb.”

Young, 76, was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1975. He’s the composer of such hits as “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon” and “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.”

An audiophile, Young said his fans now have the chance to listen to his music in places where it will sound better.

Young, citing sound quality issues, removed much of his music from Spotify in 2015 but later relented, saying “that’s where people get music.” He has his own online archive of all of his music that fans can subscribe to.

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