In an act of solidarity between two veteran rock stars with a shared history of espousing progressive causes, Joni Mitchell has joined Neil Young in removing his music from Spotify in protest at hosting a popular anti-vax podcast.
Mitchell, whose 1971 album Blue is considered one of the greatest of all time, is the first high-profile musician to take a stand alongside Young against the streaming juggernaut.
“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people’s lives,” she said. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
The move escalated the dispute over comedian Joe Rogan’s controversial Spotify-hosted podcasts, which last week sparked a firestorm over anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, undo culture and social media policing.
Many Young fans and supporters of his position have called for a boycott of the streaming platform and for other artists to follow his lead. “I’m with Neil Young” and “#CancelSpotify” have become social media rallying calls.
Spotify began removing Young’s music from its platform after issuing an ultimatum to the company. Referring to comedian Joe Rogan’s controversial podcasts hosted by Spotify, Young said, “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Spotify said it regretted Young’s decision but hoped to “see him again soon”. The streaming giant paid $100 million in 2020 for the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, which is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with an estimated audience of 11 million.
Hundreds of scientists and medical experts have signed an open letter to Spotify, saying Rogan has “repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, causing mistrust in science and medicine” and has “spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories”.
In a post on his website on Friday, Young said he “felt better” after quitting Spotify. “Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to support my music on a platform that spreads harmful information,” he wrote. “I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives every day to help others.
Spotify’s share of the US music market has grown from 7% in 2010 to 83% in 2020, a dominance that is sure to discourage musicians from leaving. Another complicating factor is that many big stars have ceded control of their music by selling their publishing rights for huge sums. Last year, Young sold half the rights to his catalog of songs to Hipgnosis for an undisclosed but estimated nine-figure fee.
Young and Mitchell, both in their 70s, have been friends for more than half a century. One of Young’s greatest songs, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, was apparently written for Graham Nash, his former Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young bandmate who was mourning the end of his relationship with Mitchell.
According to Mitchell’s Spotify page, she has 3.7 million monthly listeners for her music. His songs Big Yellow Taxi and A Case of You have both been streamed over 100 million times on the service. Young has 6.2 million monthly listeners, with Heart of Gold and Harvest Moon his most listened to tracks.
Young and Mitchell contracted polio as children before vaccines against the virus became widely available. Mitchell was hospitalized for weeks and Young recalled having a quarantine sign on the door of his family home warning people not to enter. “Nobody wanted to be near me for a while,” he wrote in his autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace.
NHS doctor and bestselling author Rachel Clarke tweeted“Neil Young and Joni Mitchell… know full well how much preventable damage, suffering and death anti-vaxx can cause. »
Mitchell also suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, a decade after Young was treated for the same condition.
In his memoir, Young makes numerous references to his friendship with Mitchell. In 1971, while he was on tour, she made him a “beautiful knitted cap” with a seashell hanging from the front. “I could feel the love in it,” he wrote.
Calls on social media for people to cancel their Spotify subscriptions intensified after Mitchell’s statement in support of Young’s position. Spotify didn’t reveal how many cancellations there have been in recent days, but a message from its customer support team to subscribers said the streaming service was “getting a lot of contacts, so may be slow to respond. “.
Meanwhile, Barry Manilow denied he would follow Young’s lead in removing his music from Spotify.
The 78-year-old singer, whose 1970s hits include Copacabana and Mandy, wrote on Twitter: “Recently heard a rumor about me and Spotify. I don’t know where it started but it didn’t started with me or whoever represents me.