Spotify CEO Says the Company Will Not Change Its Policies ‘Based on Any Media Cycle’ Following Joe Rogan Vaccine Misinformation

Spotify is doubling down on its policies following controversy with Joe Rogan on its platform. Despite their new plan to add a “content advisory” on any podcast episode that discusses coronavirus, Spotify is still receiving backlash from a growing number of artists and streamers.

Now, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills have joined their fellow bandmate, Neil Young, as well as Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren, in removing their catalogs from Spotify.

Young published an open letter to his record label and management team asking them to remove his music because he didn’t want to be on the same platform as Rogan, who he feels is spreading misinformation about COVID-19 on his podcast. Spotify removed him from the platform days later.

However, Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, has reaffirmed that the music streaming platform will not change its policies no matter what.

Daniel Ek speaking during Spotify Investor Day in New York, 2018.
Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek | Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Spotify is adding a ‘content advisory’ for podcast episodes that talk about coronavirus

Previously, Ek said that Spotify would not dictate what creators can say on the streaming platform. Ek once compared Rogan to “really well-paid rappers,” saying Spotify doesn’t dictate what they put in their songs either.

On Jan. 30, Ek responded to the complaints from streamers and artists in an open letter. “We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users,” Ek wrote (per the New York Times).

“In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”

So, the streaming platform plans to compromise on this controversial issue. Ek said that Spotify would add a “content advisory” notice to any podcast episode that discusses COVID-19. It will direct listeners to a “Covid-19 hub” with facts and information.

Spotify is also publishing its platform rules, which “address dangerous, deceptive, sensitive and illegal content.” They’ve also “removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic.”

However, Ek said that their policies will not change.

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Spotify is not changing its policies

On Feb. 2, Ek personally addressed his company’s issues. According to CNN, he said that the company is “trying to balance creative expression with the safety of our users.”

“Of course, this is a very complicated issue,” Ek said during the company’s post-earnings call. “But I’m really proud of the steps that we took following the concerns raised by the medical and scientific communities.”

The company ended 2021 with 180 million paid subscribers but has seen its stock drop more than 20% after hours on Feb. 2.

Ek continued that the company does not “change our policies based on one creator nor do we change it based on any media cycle or calls from anyone else.” He added: “While Joe has a massive audience… he also has to abide by those policies.”

Ek also added that the last several weeks have “presented a number of learning opportunities” for Spotify. “There’s still work to be done,” Ek said. “But I’m pleased that Spotify is already implementing several first-of-its-kinds measures to help combat misinformation and provide greater transparency.”

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Spotify removed Young’s music

On Jan. 24, Young posted a since-deleted open letter on his website asking his management and record label to remove his catalog from Spotify. He doesn’t want to be on a streaming platform with The Joe Rogan Experience, which he believes is spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

So Young gave Spotify an ultimatum: him or Rogan.

“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 (per Forbes). “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. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

On Jan. 26, Spotify decided to remove all of Young’s songs. In a statement obtained by NPR, a Spotify spokesperson wrote, “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators.

“We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

Meanwhile, Young urged his fellow artists to join him. He also reiterated that he didn’t want to censor anyone. “I sincerely hope that other artists can make a move, but I can’t really expect that to happen,” he wrote. “I did this because I had no choice in my heart. It is who I am. I am not censoring anyone. I am speaking my own truth.”

So, it seems the situation has hit a bit of a stalemate, with no parties involved ready to budge on their positions. However, more and more artists are removing their music.

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