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Music

Will Butler of Arcade Fire writes an op-ed about Spotify and the state of music

Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist and core member, Will Butler, has written an op-ed on the current state of music. Focusing on the issues surrounding Spotify, Joe Rogan and Neil Young, Butler makes some pertinent points. 

In January, hundreds of scientists and medical professionals requested that Spotify start tackling the misinformation about Covid-19 that is rampant on the platform, which was informed by comments made on the streaming service’s flagship podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience

Over 270 figures from the scientific and medical community signed an open letter, labelling Rogan’s actions “not only objectionable and offensive but also medically and culturally dangerous”.

Canadian musician Neil Young showed his support for the letter, and in an open note of his own, demanded that his music be “immediately” removed from the platform. Since, legends such as Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and David Crosby have emulated Young and pledged their support to him. 

Since the furore was sparked, Spotify has seen its market share plummet, and many have vowed to leave the platform for good. In his new piece in The Atlantic, Butler has discussed the minuscule amount artists make from Spotify, and thinks that their stance on Joe Rogan has broader implications for the music industry. 

“When Neil Young said he’d take his music off Spotify if it kept streaming the podcaster Joe Rogan, I doubted he was trying to deplatform Rogan,” Butler started. “I assumed he was just telling the company, ‘I don’t need this. I’m out of here’.”

“I support Young’s stance,” Butler continued. “He has the moral right to get off Spotify, the largest music-streaming service, to protest Rogan’s comments about Covid-19 vaccines. But, notably, Young himself did not in fact have the legal right to leave. He’d signed away those rights to his label, which is part of Warner Music Group, and he had to ask Warner to let him leave Spotify as a personal favour.”

He added: “Ultimately, the dispute between Young and Spotify over Rogan’s show says much more about what is happening to the music business than it does about free expression or artistic integrity.”

Elsewhere, Butler opined: “From the business side, the picture looks bleak. But I can still also just listen to music and feel inspired; still sit at a piano and try to make something new; still go to a show (well, when this coronavirus wave passes) and forget myself.”

Looking into a very bleak future, it’s hard to argue with Butler’s assertions: “My deep dread, though, is that this ability to tune out and focus on art becomes an aristocratic luxury; that a lack of money for music means a lack of money for musicians; that new ways of doing business are destroying the possibility of a creative middle class.”

Adding: “I don’t know that, if I were Rogan, I would do much different,” he appended. “I feel confident holding Rogan’s dumb-assery against him, but it’s hard to turn down free money.”

This is a developing story. 

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