Neil Young returns to Spotify after Joe Rogan boycott

Neil Young has announced a somewhat reluctant return to Spotify, around two years after he pulled his catalogue from the streaming service in protest against podcast host Joe Rogan.

The legendary singer-songwriter, 78, initially removed his songs from Spotify in early 2022 after publishing an open letter telling the platform to address the vaccine misinformation being broadcast from Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.

In an April 2021 episode of his podcast, Rogan discouraged young people from getting vaccinated, stating: “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go, no.”

He addressed the backlash to his comments, saying that he is “not an anti-vax person”.

“I believe they’re safe and encourage many people to take them,” Rogan said, while refusing to back down on claims that 21-one-year-olds did not “need” the vaccine.

“I’m not a respected source of information, even for me”, he said.

“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young said at the time, as he wrote that Rogan’s podcast was “potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them” during the Covid-19 pandemic. His letter was later unpublished.

Responding to the furore, Spotify said in 2022 that it had “detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

The “Harvet Moon” artist’s return to Spotify was not because his original stance has changed, he said in a new statement posted to his Neil Young Archives website, but due to the release of Rogan’s podcast to other major streaming services, after the end of Spotify’s exclusive deal with the controversial host.

He explained in 2022 that removing his music from Spotify would be “a huge loss for [his] record company to absorb”, as it represented 60 per cent of his global streaming revenue. On Tuesday 12 March, he said reinstating his catalogue came “as music services Apple and Amazon have started serving the same disinformation podcast features I had opposed at Spotify”.

Neil Young (Getty Images)
Neil Young (Getty Images)

“I cannot just leave Apple and Amazon, like I did Spotify, because my music would have very little streaming outlet to music lovers at all, so I have returned to Spotify,” he said.

He caveated this with the hope that Spotify’s “low-res” sound quality would improve and his fans would be able “to hear and feel all the music as we made it”.

Young’s songs are also available in “high-res” on Qobuz and Tidal,” he said.

Several other prominent artists, including Joni Mitchell and Young’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, followed suit in removing their songs from Spotify after he protested over Rogan’s podcast.

CSN/CSN&Y’s music has since been restored to the service, however, Mitchell’s is still absent.