Spotify breaks silence on Joe Rogan controversy as it pulls Neil Young's music

Joe Rogan talking on a microphone, Spotify on a phone and Neil Young at a performance
(Image credit: Carmen Mandato/Getty, Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock, Gary Miller / Getty)

Update, 1/31: This story is moving quickly now, so we're bringing you all the latest developments in our Spotify Joe Rogan Controversy live blog.

Spotify's losing its "Heart of Gold," as news broke that it's in the process of removing the works of musician Neil Young from its servers.. It's all happening because of Young's opinions about what Joe Rogan says on his popular podcast (a Spotify exclusive).

Earlier this week, Young sent an ultimatum in an open letter to his manager and label. Spotify needed to, Young said, remove The Joe Rogan Experience podcast or his music from its networks. The letter, which you can read on Young's site, stated in part "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."

And so today (Jan. 26) The Wall Street Journal reports that Spotify is going to remove Mr. Young's library from its service. 

Spotify's deal with Rogan is reportedly worth more than $100 million. Mr. Rogan's show, once (and likely still) a highly popular podcast has been a platform for a wide range of opinions.

And while Rogan's influence is still large, the move to make his show exclusive to Spotify may have decreased his reach. A report from The Verge has shown his guests may not receive the same increase in attention after they appear on the show, at least in terms of how many followers they gain on social media. 

Spotify has since made its content policies publicly available, detailing what it will and will not allow regarding healthcare information.

What's been said on The Joe Rogan Experience

Neil Young is not alone in his critique of Rogan's podcast. At the beginning of January, an open letter to Spotify signed by 270 doctors and scientists called for the streaming service to adopt stricter policies around misinformation.

The letter specifically cited an episode that featured Dr. Robert Malone, who has been deplatformed by Twitter for promoting Covid-19 misinformation. During the podcast, Malone blamed the public's belief in vaccine efficacy on a "mass formation psychosis," an unfounded theory. Malone then went on to compare the public's acceptance of Covid vaccines to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. (A full transcript for the episode is available here).

Rogan has also been criticized for stating that otherwise healthy 21-year-olds did not need to receive the Covid vaccine, and for promoting Ivermectin as a cure for Covid, which also has not been proven to treat the disease. 

What Spotify is saying

A Spotify representative told The Wall Street Journal that it has already removed over 20,000 Covid-related podcast episodes since the start of the pandemic. A Spotify spokesperson gave this statement:

“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 regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon."

There's no indication of when that will happen, but if you're a Spotify subscriber who needs to listen to "Like a Hurricane" or "Cowgirl in the Sand" right now, there are plenty of streaming services that still have Neil Young's back catalogue on tap

In other entertainment news, Showtime just canceled Black Monday, a show starring Don Cheadle after three seasons. Trying to find something new to stream? We've got what you need to watch RuPaul's Drag Race season 14 episode 4 and the WWE Royal Rumble 2022 live stream — two sides of the same coin in our minds.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.