In today’s highly politicized climate, many brands, sites and companies have struggled to remain neutral in the political sphere. A middle ground seems impossible to find, as companies are criticized for remaining silent on pressing topics but are also berated for speaking out too strongly.
While music platforms may not seem problematic in nature, Spotify has become recently embroiled in medical and political controversy. The dispute regards famous singer-songwriter Neil Young and others demanding the removal of their music from the platform in protest of Spotify’s approval of the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
Rogan’s highly popular podcast has been accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and its vaccines. In the podcast, Rogan falsely claims that the vaccine is not truly a vaccine but rather gene therapy, implying that it alters one’s genes instead of providing protection against the coronavirus.
Another incorrect claim came from a guest on the podcast, virologist Robert Malone. Malone has already been banned from Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation, and on Rogan’s podcast, he made the false assertion that if one gets vaccinated after having COVID-19, they are at a greater risk of harmful side effects.
The claims made by Rogan and Malone caught the attention of many. Most importantly, they drew the attention of 270 medical professionals who stated that the podcast’s claims are scientifically false. According to Rolling Stone, they wrote and signed a letter to Spotify requesting that this misinformation be addressed. Their request is more realistic than that of Young, who gave the ultimatum of himself or Rogan remaining on Spotify, suggesting that he would not continue sharing his music if Rogan’s podcast remained on the platform.
Young’s request is unrealistic because Rogan’s podcast is the number one podcast on Spotify, bringing in large amounts of money to the platform with an estimated 11 million listeners per episode and a total of 1,777 episodes, according to Rolling Stone.
In terms of addressing these conflicting political opinions, it would be a poor choice for Spotify to publicly insert themselves further into the controversy.
No matter what opinion Rogan holds, there will always be an opposing view. This makes it extremely difficult for Spotify to censor some content and not others.
Still, it is important to hold him accountable for his actions, which Spotify successfully did within their censorship limits. They went about this by having Rogan remove upwards of 70 episodes with harmful, false content.
When looking at the numbers, the loss of Young, who attracts an average six million monthly listeners, is less of a loss to Spotify financially in comparison to Rogan’s 11 million listeners per episode.
Taking a business-focused approach for addressing the situation is in Spotify’s best interest as any other approach would result in a slippery slope of political controversy.
The CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, publicly stated that some of Rogan’s comments that have since been removed from the platform do not represent the company values. Although Spotify has not directly addressed the artists removing their music, addressing the situation any further would more than likely cause more backlash for Spotify.