The Spotify Conundrum: Mixing Music and Morality

Rogan Responds to Spotify Controversy, Young Defects to Amazon

Mixing music and morality can get tricky.

Last week, musician Neil Young set off fireworks when he demanded that his music be pulled off the audio streaming service Spotify because he objected to its high visibility podcaster, Joe Rogan, spreading alleged Covid misinformation.

Claiming the moral high ground, Young wrote in a letter published on his website on Jan. 24, “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.”

Others have jumped enthusiastically on Young’s condemnation train, including Joni Mitchell,  Nils Lofgren, India Arie, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin James, Jewel, Jamie Kennedy, Tulsi Gabbard, Troy Aikman, Kat Von D, Domanic Monaghan, Candice Owens, Jillian Michaels, Tomi Lahren and Andrew Dice Clay.

On Feb. 3, Roxane Gay, an author and a contributing Opinion writer for The New York Times decided she needed to join the fray, wrote an opinion column for The New York Times announcing shew was pulling her podcast, “The Roxane Gay Agenda,” from Spotify.

Also signing on to the crusade — David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. “Until real action is taken to show that a concern for humanity must be balanced with commerce, we don’t want our music — or the music we made together — to be on the same platform,” they said in a statement.

Even Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, endorsed Young’s action on Twitter. 

So where did uber-moral Young direct his listeners as one of the acceptable alternative music streaming services?  Amazon. Clearly he did not consider the negative consequences of his well-intentioned actions.

In a Twitter post, Young included a link for new subscribers signing up for Amazon Music and saying they can receive four months free.  “Amazon has been leading the pack in bringing Hi-Res audio to the masses, and it’s a great place to enjoy my entire catalog in the highest quality available,” Young said.

Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Amazon is hardly a paragon of virtue either.

The company has been accused of:

  • Using data about products offered by independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products.
  • Vigorously opposing trade unions at its massive warehouses.
  • Directly or indirectly benefiting from forced labor of Uyghur peoples in internment camps in Xinjiang, China and at factories in major supply chains.

In other words, Amazon is a poster child for questionable business practices.

Amazon is also already a dominant player, with Amazon Marketplace accounting for about 25% of all online spending in America, meaning a quarter out of every dollar spent online goes to the marketplace. You’d have to combine the next five mass-market retailers (Walmart, eBay, Apple, The Home Depot and Target) to equal its size.

And it keeps spreading out, invading every part of our lives. In 2020, Amazon announced Amazon Pharmacy, a new store on Amazon that allows customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device through the Amazon App. In January 2022, Amazon, already  the largest clothing retailer in America since it started selling clothing in 2002, announced it planned to open Amazon Style, its first clothing, shoe and accessories’ store, later this year at a posh shopping complex in Los Angeles. 

Do all these high minded critics of Spotify really think Amazon is a more ethical socially conscious company than Spotify? Is it really wise to direct even more business its way, as Young suggests?

I think not.