“Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around”
Don’t Let It Bring You Down – Neil Young – After The Goldrush – 1970
Let me start this column off by saying that despite what some folks say, artists have every right to express their opinions about anything they desire. You are under no obligation to agree with them, buy/consume their art or support them in any way. Their opinion is no better and no less than that of anyone else’s. I have heard too many folks say,”he/she is just an entertainer they should entertain and keep their opinions to themselves.” Well, obviously the person making that statement didn’t keep their opinion to themselves. So why should the artist?
So with that out of the way, I want to weigh in on the Neil Young/Joe Rogan/Spotify train wreck. I wholeheartedly agree that Neil Young or any other artist has every right to pull their music off Spotify for any reason. Also I agree that Neil’s decision got a much needed conversation started, especially after Joni Mitchell and other notables followed suit. I have no argument with them; their opinions, their music and their rights. But what has followed is pressure for other artists to remove theirs as well. Many of my friends have removed theirs in solidarity.
I honestly thought seriously about it but then realized if I remove my music from Spotify simply because I disagree with Mr Rogan’s COVID stand, which I do, then to be consistent I should also remove it from every streaming platform that has content I disagree with. In my case that would be every single streaming and social media site. What have I proved by taking my content back, so that effectively no one has access to it? For those who don’t know, streaming platforms, like it or not, are the primary way for folks to discover and hear our music. It certainly is not a major income stream or even a minor one for that matter for most including myself. Would taking my content down serve any purpose other than silencing myself? COVID has taken away the ability for many of us to perform in person especially for those artists who are older or with health issues. Wouldn’t it be better for most artists to create content that represents their opinion and remain available to the masses?
Neal Young can afford to take his content down. He is well known especially in my, the boomer, generation. In fact, it added to his cachet as an artist in the eyes of many. He has been on the forefront of social commentary for at least 50 years. His song “Ohio,” about the Kent State shootings, galvanized a generation. He has continued with such commentary ever since. Agree or disagree with him, because of his art, his opinions are heard and his protests are reported on. I would bet that the results of his Spotify protest has increased his listens on Apple Music and the other streaming platforms. Is that true for myself and other not so well known artists? Absolutely not! If I remove my music, I effectively silence myself and lose a part what little communication bandwidth I have. His leaving Spotify made headlines therefore making his point and consequently receiving responses, though weak ones, from Spotify and Rogan.
Let’s face facts, Rogan is on Spotify for only two reasons: listeners and money. In other words: money and money alone. He already had the listeners and Spotify wanted them to migrate to their platform. It is reported he received 100 million dollars to move. They already knew about his often questionable guests and opinions. Spotify didn’t care about any of that, it was all about the numbers and the potential subscribers, so just like I said; money. Spotify doesn’t care about Rogan’s stands or his guests? Oh, they’ll make noises like they do but by their failure to any real actions, it will show they really don’t. Do you think Rogan lost listeners because of Neil’s protest? I would guess it increased his listenership as a result. The rich get richer and the rest of us, nada. Like it or not as individuals and artists we are, if we participate, at the mercy of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and the rest. We can ether protest by leaving or by remaining and speaking our truth. I want to keep my voice out there, as small as it may be.
To make sure you understand me. I wholeheartedly believe that COVID vaccination is a good thing. I am vaccinated and boosted and am recovering from a mild case of Omicron as I write this. At 69 years old who knows what COVID would have done to me without the vaccination. As it is, I had only mild flu symptoms. I credit vaccination with that. This whole Spotify situation is distasteful to me in so many ways. Why can’t we get our science from scientists? Instead talking heads rule the day in our post-truth world. Everybody thinks they can become an expert with 20 minutes of Google research looking for an opinion that agrees with their worldview. Truth is no longer about facts but what you want it to be. Kind of sad but that is the way the world is now. All us little folks pulling our music off Spotify won’t do a single thing except silence us to the Spotify audience.
I truly wish I didn’t have to make these kinds of decisions. So for all the reasons outlined above; I am NOT pulling my music off Spotify. Do I think you should? That is totally your decision. I have stated my case. If your opinion differs as I am sure many will I honestly would love to hear it. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading. See you next month, over and out.
Randy Lewis Brown is well past his prime with an early bedtime. Being a semi-retired baby boomer singer/songwriter living in East Texas, he has been involved with many sides of the music business over the past 50 years. With jobs such as being a sideman, a sound man, touring songwriter, producer, operating a venue, an arts columnist and a recording studio owner/engineer. He finds no joy in the fact that the music business is now run by streaming platforms but grudgingly accepts that reality and does his best to live with it.