This article was published on February 1, 2022

In the Joe Rogan, Neil Young, and Spotify debacle, everyone sucks

They suck. We suck. You suck.


In the Joe Rogan, Neil Young, and Spotify debacle, everyone sucks
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

In case you’ve been living in a house made of cotton wool that exists under a rock, you’ll have heard about the debacle between Joe Rogan, Neil Young, and Spotify. And, in these troubling times, I’d like to share a message of solidarity and hope.

Here it is: everyone sucks.

Some people more than others, certainly, but it’s still all of them. The people all suck. Anyone involved? Sucks. By proxy, that means I also suck, but I’m not willing to submit my mind to this level of scrutiny just yet.

Before we get into why I’m the only one with the Correct Opinion, we need to do a little bit of history. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.

joe rogan spotify vaccine
The man, the myth, the huge-headed Rogan.

Last week, acclaimed artist Neil Young demanded that Spotify either either remove his music from the platform, or do the same with The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast.

The reason? Spotify and The JRE are “spreading fake information about vaccines.”

And, in this instance, Young is right.

Surprising no one, Spotify sided with Rogan. Neil Young’s music is off the platform. I mean, what else would’ve happened? Spotify spent over $100M to make Rogan’s podcast exclusive to its network, it’s not gonna piss that up the wall.

After Neil Young left Spotify, Joni Mitchell and… uh, Bruce Springsteen guitarist… Nils Lofgren followed suit. Not exactly an exodus, but it’s some influential people. Well, two.

Following this, Spotify had billions wiped off its market value. It reacted by stating it’ll include a content advisory warning on The JRE. 

The idea here is that people who follow the link will be taken to a resource center that contains the latest medical information about the coronavirus. From what we can tell so far, this will be a label similar to explicit content, rather than an audio warning.

In response to the above, Joe Rogan released a video on Instagram where he effectively says “sorry, not sorry.”

To be fair, he said he’s “open to” balancing out his shows by inviting guests on who can refute recently made controversial claims. Even if the “open to” part of that sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting.

That, friends, is the briefest outline of the controversy I can provide. Now, let me explain why everyone fucking sucks.

neil young spotify corona vaccination scandal
Uh oh, I’m seeing double: 24 NEIL YOUNGS!

Let’s begin with the least suckiest major player in this saga: Neil Young.

On one hand, respect to my king for making a stand. On the other? How about you don’t use this as an opportunity to promote people moving to Amazon Music? The company is multitudes worse than Spotify. I mean, Amazon gives its facial recognition tech to law enforcement, mistreats its employees, and is generally pretty evil.

If Neil Young didn’t suck, he’d remove his music from all streaming platforms. It’s not like he needs the cash, after all. In my mind, his actions feel less like those of a fire-and-brimstone revolutionary, and more of a boomer-ass old man shouting at the clouds.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but Neil Young sucks.

joe rogan sucks
When a neckbeard doesn’t have a neckbeard.

One of the reasons this whole saga has exploded is because the emotions Joe Rogan evokes. The majority of people either compare him to a truth-telling freedom fighter, or say he’s an absolute fucking clown.

There’s little middle ground here. The fact is he’s just a vaguely sucky dude-bro with a popular podcast.

Let’s put it another way, both these statements are true:

  1. Joe Rogan is an excellent and inquisitive conversationalist
  2. Joe Rogan often doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about

He should do better, but is also in a position of cultural power that’s unheralded. Tens and tens of millions of people listen to him by choice. You could make a compelling argument that, in terms of people hours, he’s the most-listened to individual in human history.

A newsroom with a fraction of his audience has a whole team of people cross-checking stories and providing accountability. Rogan does not. And he definitely should — because he often says downright wrong and hateful things, even if his heart is generally in the right place.

We could go on forever, but it’s best summed up like this: if you think Joe Rogan doesn’t suck, then you suck. And if you think Joe Rogan does suck? Then you, friend, also suck.

And Joe Rogan himself? Well, that man sucks.

spotify sucks
IT’S HATCHING.

Ah yes, now we’re onto the Godzilla of suckiness: Spotify.

Let’s get this out the way first. I’m a firm believer this Joe Rogan/Neil Young saga is good for Spotify.

Billions were wiped off its market value, but a similar thing happened to Nike when it dropped its Kaepernick ad. Stock dropped by 3.2% and #BoycottNike trended on Twitter.

But a year later? It increased its value by $6 billion and saw a 31% boost sales boost.

Spotify‘s plan is to effectively become the Netflix of podcasts (I’m sorry) and the exclusive rights to The Joe Rogan Experience is part of that. In a year’s time, the emotion will be gone and we’ll remember that Spotify was at the center of what will probably be 2022’s biggest podcast story.

This is where the comparison with Nike folds though.

The Colin Kaepernick campaign was about highlighting someone trying to bring attention to injustices, to save lives. What Joe Rogan has done is potentially put more lives in danger.

And Spotify is sitting here like it’s an impartial party. In fact — as this excellent piece by Ryan Broderick points out — Spotify is Rogan’s publisher.

To put it another way, the streaming service is a media organisation, not the platform it pretends to be. And that sucks. Because it has a responsibility as a media service to provide accurate information.

Instead, it’s using this controversy as a marketing tool.

There’s so much more we could go into here, but now is as good time to round up. All together now: Spotify sucks. Joe Rogan sucks. Neil Young sucks.

And you know what? The media involved in this debacle — including yours truly — also suck. Friends, everyone sucks.

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