Spotify, Joe Rogan & Morality
I use Spotify all the time. I’m listening to Spotify right now.
I love making playlists, collaborating on playlists with friends, discovering other people’s playlists. It has the best infrastructure for all these wonderful things that feeds my creativity and has been a big facet in my own personal evolution in music. It’s an important part of my relationship with my partner and with some of my best friends who connect best through music.
Plus: it’s the main hub for my podcast: The Naked Man Podcast, a conversational journey exploring honesty, vulnerability and toxic masculinity.
I even upload the podcast through Anchor.fm, a company owned by Spotify. I made the switch to Anchor because it was so much easier than any other hosting platform I had used (and it’s completely free). Honestly, I need that help.
You’ve likely heard that Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and other artists have removed their music from Spotify in protest to the lies and misinformation being spread on their platform through Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Let’s be clear: I am Team Neil Young, Team Joni Mitchell, Team Not-Joe Rogan. It’s irresponsible and unsafe to support and promulgate his toxic nonsense.
I am thrilled that Spotify has lost $4 billion due to their handling of the situation. I am less thrilled that Spotify and Rogan have decided to do the bare minimum in response. Spotify has only added warnings and easier access to reputable resources within Rogan’s podcast, but to this point hasn’t removed the incriminating episodes in question. Rogan has offered a pat apology and promises to bring more balanced views to his podcast. Right.
That Spotify is gross isn’t news — another multibillion dollar company that cares more about money than people? That’s every multibillion dollar company, that’s a function of this economy. They basically found a way for Napster to be legal and have been robbing artists for years and I tacitly accepted that by using their service because it was easy and fun. Through this development, I’ve learned that Spotify was run by Jared Kushner’s brother Joshua, so the gross isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
Especially as a podcaster, I’m not ignorant of their attempts at monopolizing the podcasting industry and squeezing out people with less known voices in favor of big name celebrities. I’m evidence of that losing battle.
But when Neil Young tweets at us to now find his hi-res music on Amazon Music, as if that’s somehow better or any different than Spotify, is hilarious and hypocritical. It feels almost as if Amazon has turned this into a publicity stunt in their favor.
We all have to make the decisions that feel right for us and that we CAN do. I don’t use Amazon, but my parents have Prime and I use their login to watch Amazon Prime, convincing myself that because I don’t spend any money directly in support of Amazon, I’m somehow better. But that’s bullshit mental gymnastics and the black-and-white morality we’re overlaying everything with is only bringing us infinite shame and guilt.
There’s a reason people use Amazon — it helps and improves their lives. Their price points are the problem but ALSO why people use them. Many can’t afford to shop anywhere but the cheapest route, and still more aren’t in the financial position to live their life politically by paying more for the same products. That’s the trap we’re in, and it’s not healthy and certainly not helping to apply our moralities and judgment upon others.
A friend of mine posted in response to my initial musings on this subject on Instagram, when I was talking this out and had not yet made a decision. Spoilers: I have made a decision, and I’ll get there.
But first — my friend posted: “The age-old problem of the easy thing and the right thing continue to diverge in course. Are you looking for confirmation on which you should do?”
This response initially made me angry, defensive; because I felt shame and guilt. It hurts because I don’t disagree with her. Was I really just complaining? “Oh, woe is me, straight white boy, I have to switch from Spotify.”
Maybe? But I don’t think this is as simple as choosing between the easy thing and the right thing.
Spotify, for all its many faults, brings me joy. It helps me creatively. It improves this show. It improves my relationships with people.
That’s no small thing. Maybe my complaining wasn’t just that. It was and is grieving. Grieving because getting rid of Spotify does make my life harder in a small way, and life’s hard enough. I’m grieving not about Spotify but about the life we’re forced to live in, where every facet of it is infected with toxicity, misinformation, exploitation, hate and money. This situation makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough, that I’m not good enough, and I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life to believing that I do work hard and that I am enough.
Let’s not pretend like quitting Spotify is the solution to our problems. There are systemic problems in everything I love, not just music — sports, movies, TV, beer, coffee, restaurants, everything. It’s the system. Chopping off Spotify’s head only necessitates a more powerful new head of Hydra in its place.
The only way to live my life in a way that isn’t infected by capitalism, by our society, is to leave it.
I’d have to grow my own food, have my own well, and not rely on anybody for anything I use in my life. Now, I would love that utopia, but it also sounds lonely and impossible, and certainly not within my means. It’s also not who I am.
Because I realized something. If Spotify is home to Joe Rogan, it’s home to his fans. In some small way, those fans on Spotify are more likely to find my show if I remain on Spotify. I haven’t quite figured out how to reach those people, but I know this: If there’s anyone that I could get to listen to my show, it’s a Joe Rogan fan. That idea terrifies me, but I’m curious about their reactions. I want to speak to them. I want to get to know them. I have a couple friends who listen to Joe Rogan and they aren’t awful, horrible people. I’m not making excuses for them either — but it’s easier to lump everyone and every decision into good / bad, easy / hard categories, but it’s just not so binary, and that black-and-white morality in my experience with myself (as someone who has always defined, ranked, kept score and judged myself in stark contrasts), well, that only lends itself to more judgment, of self and others.
So: not without reservations in this moment, I’m keeping my show on Spotify. I also am empowered with the ability to change my mind tomorrow or at any time if I want to.
I’m going to migrate my personal music elsewhere, but I have to do some research first, so I’m not forced to move back and forth between massive companies at the whims of the news cycle.
That is the decision that feels right for me, for this show.
Best of luck on whatever decision you make. I’ll do my best not to judge you for it.
If you’d like to hear me perform this monologue, listen to The Naked Man Podcast wherever you podcast.