Neil Young’s decision to have his music removed from Spotify will cost the Canadian rocker hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance rights and publishing royalties.
Spotify accounted for 43% of Young’s global streaming platform revenue, or about $1.2 million of the $2.8 million Young and his label Warner/Reprise received in streaming royalties in 2021, according to estimates from Billboard. Young pocketed half of that amount, $600,000, under terms of a standard heritage contract. Overall, Spotify streams accounted for about 14% of Young’s total solo sales and streams recording revenue, which Billboard estimates at almost $8.46 million last year.
Additionally, Young earned $308,000 in publishing revenue from Spotify last year, Billboard reports, approximately 19% of his total $1.624 million in publishing revenue. Young would take home half of that ($154,000), with the other half going to Hipgnosis Songs, which bought his publishing catalog in 2021 for $150 million.
In total, having his music removed from Spotify will cost Young approximately $754,000 annually, according to Billboard.
In solidarity with her lifelong friend, Joni Mitchell also pulled her music from the streaming platform. That move will cost her approximately $272,000 annually in artist and publishing royalties.
Young asked for the removal of his extensive catalog from Spotify because he didn’t want to share the same platform as podcaster Joe Rogan, whom Young says is spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
“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,” Young wrote in an open letter to his record label last week. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
It’s more than just musicians that are cutting ties. Author and researcher Brené Brown said on Twitter Saturday that she won’t be releasing any more of her Spotify-exclusive podcasts Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead "until further notice." Spotify also came under fire from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, whose Archewell Audio has a multiyear exclusive podcast production deal with Spotify.
The fast pace of developments through the weekend led Spotify CEO Daniel Ek to publicly address the uproar on Sunday. While he did not mention Rogan by name, he said Spotify will add a content advisory to any podcast episode that contains a discussion about COVID-19. The advisory will direct listeners to the company’s COVID-19 Hub.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” said Ek in a statement.
Spotify also, for the first time, made its platform rules publicly available.
On Sunday night, Rogan himself promised to provide a greater balance of viewpoints on his podcast. “If there's anything that I've done that I could do better, it's having more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones," Rogan said in a nine-minute episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. “I would most certainly be open to doing that. And I would like to talk to some people who have differing opinions on the podcasts in the future. I do all the scheduling myself and I don’t always get it right.”
Rogan also said he agreed with Spotify’s move to add a disclaimer to his show and said he is a fan of both Young and Mitchell and wasn’t mad at Young for starting what’s become a movement of artists defecting from the platform.