Neil Young and Joni Mitchell’s decision to pull their music from Spotify after podcaster Joe Rogan spread Covid-19 misinformation on the platform has been largely met with support from fellow artists. But it’s not as easy for other stars, even those who’ve been in the music business for decades, to follow suit.
Rosanne Cash, speaking to Rolling Stone, said that while she “absolutely agree[s]” with Young’s choice to remove his music from the streaming service, it’s “not viable for most artists” to do the same because they’re often less powerful than Young and Mitchell, don’t always own the rights to their work and often rely on streamers like Spotify to share their work and make money.
Young and Mitchell are “legacy artists,” Cash said, who “have the clout to get their labels to agree to pull their work” off Spotify. (Young’s former bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash also announced Wednesday that they wanted their music – solo recordings and their work as Crosby, Stills Nash & Young – taken off the platform, too. Nash’s request to remove his solo music was initially reported Tuesday.)
“I wish they would explain how they were able to do that and why,” Cash told Rolling Stone.
Cash said fans have tweeted at her waiting to see if she’ll pull her music from Spotify or help younger artists do the same, which she said “doesn’t make sense” because she’s not the sole rights holder of her music.
Other artists, who have expressed support for artists like Young, are restricted in how much control they have over their music: ’90s rock group Belly displayed a “Delete Spotify” banner on their artist page because they can’t remove their music under their current contract, the Washington Post reported.
It’s also not always financially possible for artists to pull their music from Spotify, Cash said.
“These are digital platforms where they make a living, as paltry as it is,” she said. “There are a lot of younger artists who are starting out [who] can’t do it, or it would be sacrificing their income.”
Rather than putting the onus on musicians to pull their own work, Cash said, the public should put pressure on Spotify to monitor its content and pay artists more fairly. If users stop using Spotify or switch to a different streaming service, artists are still reliant on streams – millions of them – to make a living. (In response to complaints of misinformation on its platform, Spotify said it would add content advisories to podcast episodes in which Covid-19 is discussed.)
“There’s this hashtag going around, ‘Delete Spotify,’” she said. “OK, great. Go to Apple Music or wherever. But how about paying artists for their work?”
Artists have long taken issue with what they see as insufficient payment from Spotify. Last year, the New York Times reported that Spotify’s payout rate was estimated to be a half-cent per stream, a rate often split among record companies and artists.
Earlier this week, R&B artist India Arie said she was pulling her music from Spotify due to offensive comments Rogan made about race on an episode of his podcast – she also complained that Spotify does not pay its artists fairly. By contrast, Rogan, whose podcast was made a Spotify exclusive in 2020, signed a deal with the streamer reported to be worth more than $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.