By Elisabeth Buchwald
Spotify’s /zigman2/quotes/207488629/composite SPOT +4.00% decision to keep Joe Rogan’s podcast — which in multiple instances has broadcast false claims about COVID-19 vaccines — is leading many users to say they’re canceling their subscription to the streaming service.
Their actions come as Neil Young announced he would pull his music off the platform if Spotify continued to feature Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
Late Friday, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, 78, who has more than 3.7 million monthly listeners on the music-streaming service, called on Spotify to take her music off the platform.
“I Stand With Neil Young!” she wrote on her website. “I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives.”
Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who inked a $25 million deal with Spotify to produce a multi-year podcast, raised concerns about the “all-too-real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform,” according to a statement released Sunday. They stopped short of announcing any plans to remove their content from Spotify.
Young, who had over 6 million monthly listeners on the service, said Spotify is “spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.”
On Wednesday, Spotify ultimately allowed Young to pull the plug but made no changes to Rogan’s podcast, which was the most popular podcast worldwide on Spotify last year.
After reports that more artists could follow Young’s lead, Spotify broke its silence on Sunday night . Its CEO Daniel Ek announced in a blog post that Spotify will “add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19.”
In an Instagram /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.83% post, Rogan said he supports Spotify’s decision to add disclaimers to his podcast and others when “controversial views” about COVID are shared.
Rogan also vowed to “do my best to make sure that I’ve researched these topics —the controversial ones in particular — and have all the pertinent facts at hand before I discuss them.”
Will the wave of reported cancelations last?
Those who hope to teach Spotify a lesson for sticking with Rogan, who discouraged “young” and “healthy” people from getting vaccinated, will have a long way to go.
Spotify has approximately 300 million monthly listeners, including 172 million paid subscribers worldwide , and has roughly a 31% share of the global music-streaming market (ahead of Apple AAPL with around 15%).
The wave of cancelations probably won’t last, said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University.
“There’s a half-life to these protests and boycotts,” he told MarketWatch. “They don’t last very long, and lots of folks who say they’re canceling this subscription probably aren’t or they’ll renew them.”
Spotify didn’t respond to MarketWatch’s inquiry regarding how many users canceled their subscriptions in the wake of the controversy and it didn’t respond to questions about the difficulty some users reportedly encountered attempting to cancel their subscriptions.
Right now, “Spotify is making a calculated decision that this will pass,” Cohen added.
“Generally speaking, that’s correct. But they might be risking far more damage than they can imagine because the subject of the dispute is something that’s explosive,” he said referring to health evidence on the dangers of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a tweet posted on Thursday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Young for his advocacy against spreading lies about COVID-19.