Let’s talk about how the story around Neil Young, and the removal of his music from Spotify, was a brilliant PR move for all sides. We won’t discuss Joe Rogan, or why this story happened: that’s been covered thoroughly.
Be Great or Be Gone
The website neilyoungarchives.com has a blog branded as a newspaper. It’s called The Times-Contrarian.
Neil writes the blog himself, and one of its taglines is, “Be great or be gone.”
Neil is a legendary musician who takes principled stances, like his love of high-quality audio and his composition of famous protest songs.
He is an artist’s artist, especially for the boomers. He decides where he’s going in his career, and people have been listening for decades.
On Wednesday, January 26th, 2022, Neil Young, and the Warner Music Group, requested the removal of his catalogue from Spotify.
Neil decided that coexisting on Spotify with the Joe Rogan Experience wasn’t great, and so he was gone. He announced it in The Times-Contrarian on neilyoungarchives.com.
Neil won the support of many people in the music industry, and if you’re a longtime consumer of Rhythm Changes content, you might suspect that I looked for Peter Frampton’s take.
When artists from Peter Frampton, all the way down to myself, and possibly you, and other people in our community saw this story; they saw a fight between the artist and the man, between Neil Young and the combination of Spotify and the Joe Rogan Experience; and they lined up behind the artist.
If that sounds indeed like how you felt about this story, I would think that also, you were unsurprised that Spotify would treatan artist this way.
But I have to say, Neil is a winner in this fight just as much as a loser.
How Neil will still win
neilyoungarchives.comis a subscription platform; like Patreon, but even better, because Neil’s team controls it completely.
Neil gets money directly from people who subscribe on neilyoungarchives.com, and there are possibly tens of thousands of these people out there.
Will that number go up as more people become aware of neilyoungarchives.com due to this story? Without a doubt, yes.
He will lose some revenue because he won’t have Spotify streams; but he will only grow his personal base of direct customers and fans on neilyoungarchives.com.
Make no mistake; the conversation between Neil Young and Warner Music Group, about making this move,would have focused on that.
So if I’m saying Neil is a winner, does that mean that Spotify lost? I don’t care what their stock price might be today: I would say that they also won.
Spotify continues to be the central figure in our conversation about music’s future, whether you or Il isten on Spotify or hate the company.
And speaking of listening or hating, The Joe Rogan Experience, for its part, has a global audience. It’s a huge show, but it takes a countercultural position most of the time.
And when the network of people supporting Neil comes after the show, its listeners strengthen their feeling that they are the underdogs, despite how numerous they might be.
What’s why on the other side of this fight, you have seen #ThankYouSpotify.
Both Neil and Joe Rogan may yet leave this fight with more enthusiastic listeners and supporters.
And unless people really do continue quitting Spotify, deleting their accounts, and cancelling their payments to the company en masse, in which case I will definitely follow up this video,
Spotify does not lose either.
Their place in the conversation about the music industry remains unassailable. All the big players win, from Neil Young to Joe Rogan to Spotify, even if it looks like they’re fighting.
It gets better. There are more players in this game, too.
On Friday, January 28th, 2022, this message attributed to Neil ran on The Times-Contrarian on neilyoungarchives.com:
“All of my fans who are looking for my music should use this link, Amazon Music Dot-Com Slash Neil Young. All new listeners to Amazon Music will automatically get 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 catalogue at the highest quality available. Thanks, Love Earth, Be Well, Neil.”
If you jumped into this fight because Neil represented the purest form of love of music, I imagine you’re disappointed that he jumped immediately to a new corporation.
Apple Music, for their part, tweeted that they are now The Home of Neil Young.
And so the other streaming platforms get a new ally in a legendary artist, helping them gain ground against Spotify in this corporate streaming race.
Joe Rogan’s audience reinforced their mindset that they are the underdogs, and whether you love them or hate them, they’re not going anywhere.
Spotify continued to dominate the discourse, and Neil Young did what he always does: take the wheel and steer his future as an artist.
What did you see in this story, and what did it mean to you?
What I learned was this: when different audiences want to hear different things, all the big players can win a PR battle at the same time if they just appear to mix it up a bit.