Neil Young vs. Spotify

The classic folk singer’s ultimatum toward Spotify has created a chain reaction

It has not been a good start to the new year for Spotify: Neil Young has taken his music off of the streaming platform. The legendary Canadian folk singer made his decision due to the spreading of false information about vaccines on the streaming service, specifically targeting Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

Young made a reference to Rogan, who had said on his podcast “I think for the most part it’s safe to get vaccinated. I do. I do. But if you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go no.” The comedian/commentator extraordinaire made a deal with Spotify for the platform to host his podcast exclusively in May 2020. The majority of Spotify premium users were already there before Joe Rogan joined the roster; however, his podcast was responsible for a 21 per cent increase in user numbers (from 130 to 158 million).  

While this might have played out to be a win for both players, things turned sour when Young gave Spotify an ultimatum. He said “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” Given that they had spent $100 million for an exclusive deal with Rogan, the company made the “hard” choice and picked him. What they did not expect was that Young’s exit would trigger a domino effect, causing more artists to up and leave the streaming platform’s embrace. The first musician to give way after Young was fellow Laurel Canyon folk artist Joni Mitchell. The singer-songwriter proceeded to remove more than nineteen albums including Blue and Ladies of the Canyon last week to further cement her departure from the platform.

The next artists that followed suit were Nils Lofgren from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band; as well as Crosby, Stills, & Nash (which Young is sometimes a part of), Québecois legend Gilles Vigneault, and singer-songwriter India Arie. They took a leaf out of Young’s playbook and chose to stand up against misinformation, or in Arie’s case, a race-related comment by Rogan. On the other hand, there are artists that use the current situation to troll: James Blunt jokingly announced that he’d be releasing new music amidst the Young vs. Rogan debacle.    

Joe Rogan’s podcast invites a smorgasbord of people from all walks of life: from comedians to astrophysicists, and even Concordia professors such as Dr. Gad Saad. Each person has a different set of beliefs and ideologies that might or might not be agreed upon by the public. There is a difference between freedom of speech and spreading misinformation that could endanger the lives of people, but where is the line?   

     So what does this mean for Young, Spotify, and Rogan (who apologized)? Young is a household name internationally and as such is able to afford not having the extra income from Spotify when his loyal fans would still buy his records and concert tickets. Spotify will most certainly recover from the cluster of artists leaving its roster, but maybe the worst is yet to come. At least they’ll be able to benefit from Rogan’s exclusive podcast, but who knows how long that could last, what with him constantly asking his guests if they want to try DMT.         


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt and Catherine Reynolds


Top 10 timeless Canadian albums

Records from the great north you can’t pass on

Disclaimer: This list was compiled from the perspective of a Canadian millennial.

  1. Feist – The Reminder (2007)

This album spans across a variety of music genres, including influences from jazz to disco, with both Leslie Feist’s introspective originals and covers made entirely her own. The Reminder is adventurous and bright, and its jangly up-tempo indie pop emulates a multifaceted complexity that still resonates today.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

This classic folk record took on a more experimental territory in its song structures, which have raised the bar for folk music ever since. Joni Mitchell is strikingly forthright in her lyricism and imagery. Blue is gorgeously confessional and raw, but there is strength in Mitchell’s vulnerability that stands against time, making it a seminal record that will most likely set off waterworks, even for us millennials.

  1. Eric’s Trip – Love, Tara (1993)

A hidden gem, this New Brunswick indie album has a lo-fi quality that makes it feel personal and accessible. While the songs incorporate 90s noise influence, the song structures remain pop-y and melodic in a way that’s nostalgic and easy to listen to even in 2018.

  1. Neil Young – On The Beach (1974)

Mixing dark humour with solitude and affection, Neil Young steers in a softer rock direction rather than folk with this album. Its minimal-but-smooth production makes it stand against time, and marks it as a hidden gem in Canadian discography.

  1. Sloan – One Chord to Another (1996)

This Halifax quartet incorporates the jangly power-pop of the 90s with 1960s pop melodies. With just the right amount of British Invasion and garage adolescent energy, Sloan mirrors the rawness of The Who and The Beatles while still retaining their own sound. There is no other Canadian band quite like them.

  1. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary (2005)

Montreal outfit Wolf Parade’s debut record was produced by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, creating an album of brittle indie pop with the energy of post-punk. There is a strong David Bowie-driven influence, though the squiggly guitar riffs and video-game synths give it that distinct 2000s sound that still happily floods our ears.

  1. Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Harvest is a classic that paints a picture of Young’s experience of Americana in the 70s through his own Canadian perspective. An easy listen on the surface, Young contrasts a humbling folk/country rock sound with darker undertones in a way that feels nothing but human in his most accessible album. This is the perfect album to listen to when you need to sonically escape from the city into the barren but endearing country.

  1. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Arcade Fire describes Canada’s snowy suburban neighborhoods in Funeral, with stories of the tragedies, growing pains and bittersweet family memories that happened there. In the end, the band guides the listener through how these obstacles are overcome and accepted. It’s a cinematic record and a slightly orchestral instrumental lineup that remains rock at its core in the way it screams.

  1. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)

Cohen is a master at describing the strong connections between people. The beloved late Montreal native showed us that music could be poetic. He crafts stories of men and women into poems of erotic despair, revealing the pleasures and pain of lust in ways that sound like love. This classic album is vulnerable and mesmerizing, while still emulating the unique grace only Cohen could craft.

  1. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People (2002)

There aren’t many bands like Broken Social Scene, and it makes me proud to know these guys are Canadian. This album has a human energy that’s cathartic like no other pop album. The band stems from the experimental Toronto music scene with 15 members, creating a sprawling bittersweet treasure. It’s both orchestral and noisy, with the perfect balance of slow melodic lullabies and sprawling power ballads. You Forgot It in People is the perfect example of what magic can occur when the right creative minds come together.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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