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Neil Young Will Return to Spotify After Joe Rogan Protest

Neil Young will return his music to Spotify, two years after withdrawing it in protest over the podcast host Joe Rogan’s shows about Covid-19, the veteran rock musician announced on his website Tuesday.

Without naming Rogan, Young wrote: “My decision comes as music services Apple and Amazon have started serving the same disinformation podcast features I had opposed at Spotify.” Rogan previously had an exclusive deal with Spotify, which has since been renewed to allow wider distribution of his show.

In January 2022, Young drew wide attention by accusing Spotify of “spreading fake information about vaccines” through Rogan’s show, and he gave the platform an ultimatum: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Rogan, a comedian and actor, has become one of the most popular and influential figures in podcasting with his show “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which features long, freewheeling interviews with guests like Elon Musk, Ye, scientists and fellow comedians.

Days before Young’s public letter, a group of doctors, scientists and public health officials asked Spotify to crack down on Covid-19 misinformation, pointing to an episode of Rogan’s show that featured Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist and vaccine skeptic who promoted a theory that millions of people had been “hypnotized” about the coronavirus.

Following Young’s protest, the singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell also removed her music from Spotify, and the R&B singer India.Arie circulated clips showing Rogan using a racial slur repeatedly on the show. Rogan apologized for his use of the word, and Spotify quietly removed dozens of episodes of his show. Rogan also said he was willing to have “more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones.”

In a public statement at the time, Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, said, “It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.” The company added a “content advisory” notice to any podcast episode that involved Covid.

Spotify signed Rogan to a deal in 2020, worth at least $200 million, that made his show exclusive to that platform. Last month, the company announced a new, multiyear arrangement with Rogan in which Spotify would also distribute “The Joe Rogan Experience” to other podcast platforms, as well as YouTube. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the new deal could be worth as much as $250 million.

In his statement on Tuesday, Young didn’t give a timeline for when his music would return to Spotify, and a representative of Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Mitchell did not immediately answer when asked whether Mitchell would also reverse her decision.

Last year, in an analysis of how Young’s streaming activity had changed since withdrawing his music from Spotify, Billboard estimated that the protest had cost him about $16,000 in royalties per month.

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