On Friday, the singer-songwriter posted a statement, titled “I Stand With Neil Young!”, to her website announcing the decision.
“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell wrote. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
Mitchell is the first major player to follow Young in leaving Spotify — though Peter Frampton and David Crosby have both shown public support for Young alongside his wife, Daryl Hannah. That Mitchell would openly back Young’s stand against the streaming giant should come as no surprise; the singers, who both got their start in the Canadian folk scene, have been friends for nearly six decades.
The move comes just several days after Young first demanded Spotify pull his catalog over claims that the company was actively promoting the spread of misinformation about vaccines and the Covid-19 pandemic — particularly via the massively popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify, who boasts the largest worldwide market share for paid music streaming platforms, bought the rights to Rogan’s podcast last year in a reported $100 million deal.
“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,” the “Southern Man” rocker wrote Monday in a since-deleted post on his website. “They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Almost 48 hours later, Young’s music was removed from the platform.
“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” the company said in a statement. “With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. 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. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
In a new letter posted Friday to The Neil Young Archives, Young addressed recent criticism of his move to pull his music from Spotify’s platforms. “I support free speech,” he wrote. “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.”
Young’s tussle with Spotify comes on the heels of an open letter signed by hundreds of medical professionals demanding that Spotify do more to address misinformation on its platform. (Currently, the company lacks a comprehensive policy prohibiting such actions.) The letter specifically highlights Rogan’s podcast as a habitual offender in the spread of conspiracy theories and false information regarding vaccines and the pandemic.
Other music platforms have seized upon the week’s events, with Apple Music openly humble bragging on social media and declaring itself “the home of Neil Young.”
Young, too, continues to stir the pot, praising Spotify’s competition and throwing a series of not-so-subtle jabs at the company’s business model.
“Amazon, Apple Music, and Qobuz deliver up to 100% of the music today and it sounds a lot better than the shitty, degraded and neutered sound of Spotify,” he wrote. “If you support Spotify, you are destroying an art form. Business over art. Spotify plays the artists’s music at 5% of its quality and charges you like it was the real thing.”