Will a Spotify exit follow Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's royal exit? No, but the two, who signed a 2020 production deal with the company, are royally concerned about "COVID-19 misinformation" being spread on the streaming platform.
Last week, Neil Young removed his songs from the service after objecting to having them streamed by the same place that hosts the top-rated podcast of comedian Joe Rogan, a vocal COVID-19 vaccine skeptic. Joni Mitchell later announced she too would remove her own music from Spotify in "solidarity" with the fellow folk rocker "and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue," referring to an open letter signed by 270 medical and scientific professionals. In recent days, Rogan critics have taken to social media to call for a #spotifyexodus."
"Since the inception of Archewell, we have worked to address the real-time global misinformation crisis," a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry's charity said in a statement on Sunday, Jan. 30. "Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day."
The Archewell spokesperson continued, "Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis. We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does."
Hours after the Sussexes' charity released the statement—which did not mention Rogan, who has also not commented on the boycotts, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek posted his own statement on its website.
"We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users. In that role, it is important to me that we don't take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them," he wrote. "Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it's become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time."
The company published its "long-standing Platform Rules," which prohibits on its platform "content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health," such as "asserting that AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life threatening diseases are a hoax or not real; encouraging the consumption of bleach products to cure various illnesses and diseases; promoting or suggesting that vaccines approved by local health authorities are designed to cause death;
encouraging people to purposely get infected with COVID-19 in order to build immunity to it."
Ek also wrote that "we are working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19."
Following Young's removal of his songs, the Swedish company said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, "We have detailed content policies in place and we've removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil's decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon."
The Verge had previously reported that in an internal Spotify memo it obtained, a rep for the Swedish company said the group prohibits "content that promotes dangerous false or deceptive content about healthcare that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health." Rogan's podcast episodes do not "meet the threshold for removal," the rep allegedly added. Spotify has not confirmed the website's report.
In December 2020, months after announcing they were leaving their roles as senior royals, Harry and Meghan formed Archewell Audio and signed an exclusive multi-year agreement with Spotify to produce and host podcasts. They were set to produce programming that "uplifts and entertains audiences around the world" and feature "diverse perspectives and voices," the streaming service said in a statement at the time.
Young and Mitchell are not the only artists who have boycotted Spotify. The male musician's bandmate Nils Lofgren, who also performs with Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band, wrote on Young's newsletter on Saturday, Jan. 29, "We encourage all musicians, artists and music lovers everywhere, to stand with us all, and cut ties with Spotify."
He added, "Music is our planet's sacred weapon, uniting and healing billions of souls every day. Pick up your sword and start swinging. Neil always has. Stand with him, us (Joni Mitchell!), and others. It's a powerful action you can all take now, to honor truth, humanity and the heroes risking their lives every day to save ours."
In addition, author, social researcher and Spotify podcaster Brené Brown also announced on Twitter Saturday that she "will not be releasing any podcasts until further notice," without elaborating.