Neil Young Talks Leaving Spotify with Howard Stern

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

At the beginning of 2022, Neil Young shook the world.

In January, the legendary songwriter and performer announced his displeasure with the popular streaming service, Spotify, namely with the disinformation he saw coming from famous podcaster Joe Rogan, who is one of the platform’s biggest stars. Young then demanded that either Rogan go or his music would be removed from Spotify.

The proclamation upended the music industry and other famous musicians followed.

Well, Young talked about that time in his life in a recent interview with Howard Stern. That conversation, combined with a recent interview on Apple Music’s platform with Zane Lowe and Rick Rubin, shows Young isn’t angry by all streaming services.

In the interview with Stern, Young underscored his anger and subsequent desire to have his music removed from Spotify. He says he was “distressed” by COVID conspiracy theories spewed on the platform.

“I woke up one morning and I heard somebody saying there was some scientists saying something about COVID, or some doctors and they were saying something about COVID and how many people were dying in hospitals and misinformation,” said Young. “And I listened to it and they were saying he purposely is saying this stuff that he knows isn’t true about COVID and people were dying. I just called up my management and said, ‘We’re out of there. Get me off.’ And we’ll be fine, and it was a little shocking because they know all the [streaming] numbers. Who cares? You know, who cares? What’s his name? [Spotify CEO] Daniel Ek? He cares about money.”

Spotify reportedly paid Rogan $100 million to be the sole home for his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.

But Young didn’t stop there. He, along with others, has complained about Spotify’s audio quality.

He said, “The way I look at it, that just turned me off and I made an instant decision—I didn’t think about it at all—just take my music off, we don’t need it. We’ve got all these other places. And it sounds better at the other places. Why would I want to keep it on Spotify when it sounds like a pixilated movie?”

In another new interview, Lowe, Rubin, and Young talked about Young’s new album with Crazy Horse, World Record. “He was the closest I have been to working with David Briggs, who was my first producer,” Young said of working with Rubin. “Rick loves music. I love music. Rick loves music. Rick knows how to make records. I know how to make records. We have fun hanging out together. What’s the problem? It’s what we do.”

Young also talked about the publishing rights of his music, saying, “I wanted to sell my songs because I don’t have to worry about a fucking thing now. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I’ve got the end of my life to go out doing exactly what it is I want to do and not doing what I don’t want to do. Unless it hurts somebody that I love, then I really have to think about it, but when it comes to expressing who you are and what you can do, if you’re constricted by money and a lot of people are relying on you, you don’t have to do that.

“You spend 75 years getting to the spot. You don’t have to pay for what you did. You just sell what you want and you use the money to be able to go forward living life the way you want to live it and to make the examples. That’s the way I feel about it. I don’t have to go on a tour if I don’t want to go on a tour.”

This freedom has a price, he noted. Especially when it comes to his songs used in ads. “No. I don’t like that. I like the songs to be the songs. I don’t want the songs to become associated with a product or with a movement or with a politician or with a sport or with anything.”

See the interview with Lowe and Rubin below. Young touches on a number of topics, from climate change to vinyl to social media and his Neil Young Archives.

Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns

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