Neil Young’s decision to remove his music from Spotify due to the persistent stream of misinformation about vaccines on The Joe Rogan Experience has earned the singer more attention that he’s received in years. But some critics, most notably in the anti-vaccine crowd, have accused him of somehow trying to censor Rogan.
In a new letter on The Neil Young Archives, he responds to that line of attack. “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. 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.”
Elsewhere in the letter, Young criticized Spotify for reducing the quality of their sound files “down to 5% of the music’s content.” “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 writes. “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.”
Young pulled his music from Spotify earlier this week. Rogan has yet to comment on the matter, but Spotify did release a statement saying, “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. 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.”
That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. “When I left Spotify, I felt better,” Young wrote at the end of his new letter. “As an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else.”
No major stars have followed Young in leaving Spotify, though Peter Frampton and David Crosby have both shown public support for Young alongside his wife, Daryl Hannah. (Though Manilow denied a rumor that he’d be following suit. “I don’t know where it started, but it didn’t start with me or anyone who represents me,” he said.)
“Sad to see some confuse censorship & free speech with the choice a private company has in deciding what they profit from,” she wrote on Instagram. “A podcaster is free to say whatever they want Just as Neil is free to NOT have his music on a platform that makes $$$ off disinformation that harms folks.”