Joni Mitchell is joining her old friend and contemporary Neil Young in having her legendary music catalog pulled from Spotify over concerns about vaccine misinformation being spread on the platform’s popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
In a brief note posted to her official website on Friday, the singer-songwriter wrote, “I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
At the time of publishing, Mitchell’s music was still available on Spotify.
Mitchell’s announcement comes just two days after Spotify confirmed it would be granting Young’s request to have his music removed from the platform. Young made the demand on Monday (Jan. 24), writing in part, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Spotify did not immediately respond to Billboard‘s request for comment. A representative for Mitchell declined to comment.
Mitchell’s note was accompanied by a link to the open letter published earlier this month by a group of 270 doctors, scientists, professors and other medical professionals expressing concern over Rogan’s platforming of misinformation around COVID-19. In the letter, the signees asked Spotify to implement a misinformation policy as a means of combatting claims made by Rogan and his guests. Among other comments, they noted that Rogan has discouraged young people from receiving the vaccine, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are “gene therapy” and promoted the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, contrary to FDA warnings against using the drug to treat the virus.
Mitchell’s announcement comes just two days after Spotify confirmed it would be granting Young’s request to have his music removed from the platform. Young made the demand on Monday (Jan. 24) in a since-deleted post on his website Neil Young Archives (as reported by Rolling Stone), writing in part, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Like Young, the majority of Mitchell’s recorded music catalog rests with Warner Music Group, which has released Mitchell albums on WMG subsidiaries including Reprise Records (which put out her landmark 1971 album Blue, among others), Asylum Records, Nonesuch and Rhino. Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records put out an additional four Mitchell albums in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Young and Mitchell also share a manager.
Mitchell is now the second major artist to have their music pulled from Spotify over the past week due to concerns over misinformation spread by Rogan’s podcast, leaving open the question of whether others will follow their lead. In one of two follow-up notes Young posted to his website on Wednesday (Jan. 26) after Spotify acquiesced to his demand, the singer-songwriter expressed his hope that other artists will “make a move,” but noted, “I can’t really expect that to happen.” On Friday, Barry Manilow took to Twitter to deny an online rumor that he would also be pulling his music from the streaming service.
Rogan signed a $100 million deal in May 2020 giving Spotify exclusive rights to — but not ownership of — his hugely popular podcast. In addition to broadcasting his own vaccine-skeptical views, Rogan has hosted firebrands including Dr. Robert Malone, an immunologist who has drawn comparisons between the COVID-19 vaccine drive in the U.S. with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, among other inflammatory remarks.
In the pair of follow-up notes he posted on Wednesday, Young praised his record label and his publisher, Hipgnosis – which acquired 50% of his catalog in January 2021 – for supporting his request to have his music purged from Spotify (like other artists signed to record labels, Young does not possess the right to unilaterally pull his music from streaming services but must go through his label). He also noted the substantial financial hit that would result from the removal of his catalog, writing, “Losing 60% of worldwide streaming income by leaving SPOTIFY is a very big deal, a costly move, but worth it for our integrity and beliefs,” adding that “misinformation about COVID cannot be accepted.”
In another open letter posted to his website Friday, Young criticized Spotify for being a tech company instead of a music service and for choosing “business over art,” writing that anyone who supports it has a hand in “destroying an art form.” He went on to state his belief that Spotify provides a lesser quality product than other streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Qobuz and claimed that Spotify sells its customers “downgraded music.”
In a later post published to his website on Friday, Young directed his fans to a link that offers four months free of Amazon Music Unlimited, in what appeared to be a special arrangement with the streaming service (new Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers typically only receive a 30-day free trial). “Amazon has been leading the pack in bringing Hi-Res audio to the masses, and it’s a great place to enjoy my entire catalog in the highest quality available,” Young wrote. (Amazon Music became the first major streaming service to offer high-definition audio in 2019.) In a tweet posted to his official Neil Young Archives Twitter account Friday which also included the Amazon Music link, Young also praised Apple Music and Qobuz for “sticking with my High Res music.”
On Wednesday, Spotify confirmed the removal of Young’s catalog with Billboard via a statement sent by a company spokesperson. “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” the spokesperson wrote. “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.”