‘You can have Rogan or Young. Not both’: Joe Rogan should have been the one to go

By Frankie Rowley, Content Managing Editor

If you, like me, flex your Spotify subscription and get excited when your Spotify Wrapped comes out every year, well, your rude awakening is upon you. February has been a month of reckoning for the streaming service as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and other artists have been taking their discographies off of the app in retaliation against the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. The podcast’s blatant spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines paired with the show’s racist past has proven detrimental to artist support of the music streaming service. 

The firestorm started at the end of January with Young announcing, “They can have Rogan or Young. Not Both,” in a statement that appeared briefly on his website. According to Rolling Stone, Young said he would be asking for the removal of his music from Spotify due to Rogan’s spread of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. 

Now, this isn’t something that Young is doing just to make a point. For those of you who don’t know, Neil Young is a polio survivor. Let me repeat that: Neil Young is a fucking polio survior! He contracted polio at the age of nine in 1954––during the last major outbreak at a time when there were no polio vaccines. So, of course, the man wants to remove his music from a platform that spreads misinformation about medical advancements and vaccines! 

Initially his claim seemed like a bluff, but two days after the letter came out, Spotify users watched as their saved Neil Young songs faded. His artist profile and discography is still featured on Spotify, but all that remains is what once was there. 

Young’s decision to remove his discography prompted others, such as Joni Mitchell and India Arie Simpson,—who shared a compilation of clips in which Rogan said the N word on her Instagram in light of the boycott—to request their own discographies be removed. Young’s former bandmates, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, also expressed their support for Young and asked their record labels to remove all of their work. Nash took the extra step to ask for his solo work to be removed as well. 

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You would think that various artists and subscribers voicing their concerns over the already problematic Joe Rogan would cause the company to cease production of the podcast, right? Wrong. Come on, it’s capitalist America. The “Joe Rogan Experience” is a Spotify exclusive podcast—it is rumored he was paid a handsome $100 million for—and garners 11 million daily listeners. 

Basically, Rogan makes them too much money and gets too many clicks for them to pull the cord. Spotify did, however, remove at least seventy episodes of the podcast in which Arie’s compilation aired… because silently removing episodes is how this entire issue will go away. News flash Daniel Ek,—Spotify’s founder and CEO—if you want the firestorm to stop, the answer isn’t to throw water on one sputter of flames. It’s to put out the whole damn fire. 

Ek had a very performative PR written apology in light of the controversy. He hosted a town hall about the boycott and his response was essentially: I don’t agree with everything that he says, but people have a right to different opinions. We’re not cutting his show. 

This begs the question, where do we draw the line? It’s human-fucking-nature for people to have differing views and opinions, but spreading dangerous misinformation about vaccines during a pandemic and being blatantly racist—which Rogan said he was now ashamed of saying the N word…years later and only after videos resurfaced—doesn’t fall into the category for different opinions. 

The spread of misinformation is not only severely damaging, but also dangerous. Rogan is willingly—I mean of course he is, he’s an anti-vaxxer himself—allowing for false information to be spread on a platform that I had to listen to the dimwits at my high school fawn over as they equated him to a deity.

Those same kids, now adults are probably still listening to his podcast and most likely haven’t gotten the vaccine. Am I placing all of the blame on Rogan? No. Does he deserve a hefty amount of it? Absolutely. The thing that I don’t think Rogan realizes, or at least not the enormity of it, is how influential the words that come out of his mouth are. 11 million people—more than the entire population of New York City—listen to this imbecile daily. So if more people than all of New York City are hearing him spread false information and promote anti-vax propaganda, do you really think those people are going to go out and get vaccinated? Fuck no! 

So where do we draw the line? In my opinion, the line should be drawn at your wants. If you want the vaccine, get it. If you don’t want the vaccine, don’t get it. It’s as simple as that. Rogan shouldn’t be allowed to spread false information willy nilly —nor should anyone for that matter— because Spotify is paying him up the ass and he gets hella clicks and listeners. Just because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you should be able to get away with anything. I mean social media sites are cracking down on the spread of misinformation, why isn’t Spotify? What makes a podcast different from a tweet or Instagram post? 

It’s a shame that we had to lose so many good songs because of cowardice and stubbornness, but such is life, I suppose.