It wasn’t likely the response that Canadian singer Neil Young expected after he posted a since-deleted letter to his management team and record label on Monday, where he demanded that they remove his songs from the music-streaming service Spotify.
On Wednesday morning, “Who is Neil Young” was trending on social media, with many users mockingly pondering who he is, while others expressed faux shock that he was still alive (and possibly rocking in the free world).
Young, who has long been vocal about the commercialization of music, had called for the removal of his songs from Spotify as the service currently hosts the hugely popular The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, where host/comedian Joe Rogan has publicly questioned vaccine information.
“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 stated in the letter. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.
“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” the singer continued. “They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both.
“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,” the letter also stated. “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
This is not the first time that Young has had his music pulled from Spotify, Rolling Stone reported. The singer had previously sought to remove his song catalog as he felt the sound quality wasn’t adequate, but eventually he accepted that streaming is how the masses are now listening.
“That’s where people get music,” Young had told Rolling Stone in 2019. “I want people to hear my music no matter what they have to get through to do it. I’m just trying to make it so they hear a lot more and enjoy it a lot more, but sell it for the same price because music is music.”
Young had previously helped to develop Pono, a portable digital media player and music download service for high-resolution audio, but it failed to attract an audience and was discontinued in 2014.
Social Media’s Reaction: Neil Who?
Young may have expected the masses to rally around him this week, but that certainly wasn’t the response that he received on Twitter.
“NEIL YOUNG: I want all my music off the Spotify until they fire Joe Rogan. Spotify: OK. The World: Neil Who? Oh, him. Is he still alive?,” wrote Canadian radio host Mark Towhey (@towhey).
TV presenter Emma Kenny (@emmakennytv) was even more direct, writing, “How to fall out of love with Neil Young…..who is clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur! @joerogan @Spotify isn’t going anywhere.”
“Neil Young, who has 6,057,481 monthly listeners, thinks he has the influence to bring down Joe Rogan, who has 200 million people listening monthly,” pondered Harrison Krank (@HarrisonKrank).
Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Sourza (@DineshDSouza) tweeted, “I hear that a 76 year old singer who had his heyday in the previous century is threatening to take his music off Spotify unless they drop #JoeRogan. Is this true? Is it some sort of a joke?”
There were still many on social media who shared their support for Young this week.
Salon’s Matthew Rozsa (@MatthewRozsa) posted, “I’m amazed at the lack of self-awareness from Joe Rogan fans insulting Neil Young. Young is one of the greatest musicians alive. Rogan is a washed up comedian who only has a career by appealing to other biased, delusional right-wingers desperate to believe they’re freethinkers.”
“Neil Young. One of my favorite artists of all time actually standing for what’s right,” wrote author Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph).
At least a few users on social media also noted that Young’s letter has been since deleted, and attempted to explain why that may have been.
In a somewhat hostile tweet, conservative commentator Michael Cervnovich (@Cernovich) wrote, “Neil Young deleted the letter. As it turns out, he sold most of the rights to his music. He had no right to demand Spotify remove ‘his’ music. He is maybe a victim of elder abuse. There needs to be a conservator appointed. Who really wrote that letter?”
While the mockery may have been a little extreme, Cernovich was correct. It was just over a year ago that Young sold 50 percent of his publishing rights to his entire song catalog to Hipganosis Songs Fund, a UK-based investment fund, in a deal worth a reported $150 million. It gave Hipganosis the rights to the worldwide copyright and income interests from the 1,180 songs composed by Young.
The investment fund has invested in the rights to songs from artists such as Mark Ronson, Chic, Barry Manilow and Blondie. While the Hipganosis Song Fund has said that it would not license Young’s songs for commercial use, it does seem that the group might have a say on whether those tunes remain available via Spotify.
Hipganosis has not responded to whether it would honor Young’s calls to have his music pulled from the service.