By John Gruber
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When I left Spotify, I felt better.
I support free speech. I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.
As an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else.
Very Young-ian touch to work in a jab about Spotify’s overly-compressed music quality. But Young’s main point here is exactly right: free speech works both ways. It’s correct to argue that Joe Rogan has a right to say whatever he wants on his podcast, and that people who want to listen to his show should be able to. But it’s also correct that Neil Young has a right to make clear that he doesn’t want to be associated with a service that is associated with Rogan, and to publicize his stance. The answer to speech one disagrees with is more speech, and this is more speech.
With the Neil Young situation it’s been fascinating to see the people who literally don’t understand the concept of a principled stand. They’ve never seen one before. “Spotify was never gonna choose him over Joe Rogan! What a deluded old fool!”
The idea of giving up even one penny on principle is alien to all of us here in 2022.
It’s not just a one-time principled stand, either. Neil Young is an artist with a lifetime of principled credibility. Cynicism runs so deep right now that many people overlook the obvious: that Young is putting his money where his mouth is by pulling his catalog from Spotify. There is no catch.1 Young’s goal was not to get Spotify to dump Rogan, as many seem to think. His goal was simply to force Spotify to go on the record, in public, with their explicit support for Rogan, and to raise awareness that their rules — right or wrong — accommodate his show’s commentary on COVID and vaccines. Genuine virtue, not mere virtue signaling.
Of course, Spotify could have chosen to break its $100 million exclusive contract with Rogan to host his show. But if they had, it’s worth considering what would have happened. When Rogan took his show to Spotify, exclusively, his listenership and apparent influence dropped significantly. That’s the nature of exclusivity. If Spotify broke up with him, Rogan’s show wouldn’t disappear or even miss a beat. Surely he’d just take his podcast independent again, and the result would almost certainly be that his listenership and influence would grow back to where they were pre-Spotify, possibly higher thanks to all this publicity. Tell people not to read or listen to someone, and people naturally get curious what it is that person has to say. He’d have a full slate of sponsors happy to pay him to reach his show’s bigger-than-ever audience.
Cries that this constitutes “censorship” against Rogan thus fall flat for me. If you think the world would be a better place if fewer people listened to Rogan’s show, the status quo, where his show is exclusive to Spotify, is the best you’re going to get.
I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue
Which raises the distinction between Apple’s open Podcasts platform and Spotify’s exclusive platform. Bryan Campen:
Seriously what would it take for [email protected]_cook to summon the nerve to pull Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast?
Spotify deleted, but guess what, @AppleMusic hosts Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast which supports 1/6 and destroying the government, I hate this timeline so much.
Apple, clearly, does not host Steve Bannon’s podcast. Apple’s podcast directory is akin to a search engine; they index the feeds of open podcasts. They do have lines for content they won’t index (porno, of course, and hate speech), but even then, if you copy the URL for the feed, you can subscribe to it in Apple Podcasts, just like how you can visit any website you want using Safari.
If you feel so strongly that Apple ought not even include Steve Bannon’s podcast in search results that it warrants boycotting Apple’s other products and services, more power to you. But that, to me, crosses the line into being against free speech. Don’t forget to petition Google and every other search engine to de-list Bannon’s show too.
I am reminded of Tom Petty, who in 1981 fought his record company over the price for his new album. Petty insisted the album cost the then-standard price of $8.98; MCA wanted to charge $9.98, which they called “superstar pricing”. Petty threatened to title the album The $8.98 Album. MCA blinked, and Hard Promises was released for $8.98. The album cover pictured Petty in front of a crate of albums in a record store; the price tag for the albums: $8.98. ↩︎