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Spotify on the spot

Accessing new music once involved glueing your fingers to the radio’s “record” button and hoping the DJ wouldn’t talk over the song. Or you could hang out at Musica, sharing sweaty headphones with other fans to memorise the lyrics of a new favourite song. These were fun but stressful times, so it’s no wonder we love streaming services – millions of songs and albums in your pocket. 🎵

But the shine is starting to wear off for streaming pioneer Spotify amid a very public row about free speech and misinformation. A brief recap: Spotify also hosts podcasts, among them The Joe Rogan Experience. It’s hosted by, you guessed it, Joe Rogan (you may recognise him as the host of the US Fear Factor). Scientists have accused Rogan of giving a platform to Covid misinformation. Legendary rocker Neil Young withdrew his music from Spotify late in January, calling the platform “the home of life-threatening Covid misinformation”. Folk icon Joni Mitchell said she would follow suit and many other artists hailed the pair, but have not done the same because of what the Los Angeles Times describes as “political hesitancies, music ownership complications and business incentives”. Boycotting Spotify is expensive: Young, the LA Times reports, said walking away from Spotify would cost him 60% of his streaming earnings.

There’s also the not-at-all small matter of Rogan’s language use. Grammy-winning songstress India.Arie shared clips of the podcaster using the n-word. Rogan has apologised for his repeated use of the racial slur and 113 episodes of his podcast were removed from Spotify (apparently those episodes either contain Covid misinformation or feature the slur). But Spotify says it will not remove Rogan entirely from the platform. CEO Daniel Ek wrote in a letter to Spotify staff: “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but cancelling voices is a slippery slope.”

The controversy has sparked a hashtag, #DeleteSpotify. One poll suggests that 19% of users have or will delete their accounts in protest. If you’re among them, Business Insider has put together a how-to guide. Whatsapp users, check the PDF for the link. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 17 February 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.