Will Neil Young’s protest exit hurt Spotify’s business prospects?

The removal of rock legend Neil Young from the playlists of audio streaming platform Spotify, in protest at questionable COVID-19 related information discussed on podcaster Joe Rogan’s show, has cost the company more than $2 billion in market losses last week.

And other artists have followed Young in taking a stand against the content, including folk singer Joni Mitchell who said she stood in solidarity and also called for her music to be removed. So does Nils Lofgren, a guitarist who plays in one of Young’s backing bands, Crazy Horse, and also with Bruce Springsteen. Author/podcaster Brené Brown also said she’s been stopping new podcasts without saying exactly why.

Some Spotify listeners joined the pushback and took to social media last week, reporting connection issues with the streamer’s customer service as they tried to cancel subscriptions. And #DeleteSpotify was trending on social media platforms last Friday.

Young’s protest came after dozens of doctors and scientists wrote an open letter to Spotify complaining about Rogan’s decision to have a podcast discussion with Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist who has was banned from Twitter for spreading false information about COVID-19. Malone has become a hero in the anti-vaccination community.

Claiming Spotify was complicit in spreading false information, Young told the company he could have his music or Rogan’s podcast — “not both.” Spotify agreed to remove Young’s music from the service and it was taken down last Wednesday.

But the commercial damage caused by the Young-Rogan feud, which Spotify tried to resolve over the weekend by updating its content policy, appears to have been short-lived. And it seems to be part of an ongoing trend of failed attempts to boycott big tech companies to force them to change policy and/or conduct.

Spotify stock hit its lowest value in more than a year and a half last Friday, falling to just over $165 per share, after Young, 76, demanded the company take take action against Rogan or say goodbye to his vast and popular catalog of musical hits that date back to the early 60s.

Still, Spotify’s stock jumped more than 13% on Monday and continued to rise on Tuesday, closing the regular trading day at over $203 per share, topping the stock price of $195 the Friday before. that Young publishes his missive.

After Young’s departure, the company announced it would add a disclaimer before all podcasts that discuss COVID-19, directing listeners to factual information about the pandemic from scientists and public health experts. He didn’t specifically discuss Rogan.

Spotify has been more transparent in recent days about how it handles questionable content, and the new policy is a good first step, says John Wihbey, a professor at Northeastern University and an expert in emerging technologies.

Still, it’s not clear that anyone has effectively addressed the issue of misinformation spread by podcasts, says Wihbey. Will Rogan’s audience actually listen to an advisory, then hunt down more information about COVID-19?

“It could just be window dressing,” he says.

Other artists and Spotify subscribers could still join in turning their backs on the company – the world’s largest music streaming service with twice the audience of its closest competitor, Apple Music – and potentially increasing the impacts. on business results. But the recent record of boycotts leading to meaningful change by targeted tech companies is not a winning streak.

In a Tuesday report, Axios described a history of actions aimed at changing the behavior of other US tech giants and the resulting disappointing results:

  • Facebook’s boycott by major advertisers in June 2020 got a lot of press attention, but it barely impacted the tech giant’s revenue, and most advertisers returned to the platform after a month. Audiences and media, according to Google’s trending data, have changed rapidly.
  • Youtube faced a serious advertiser boycott in 2017, but months later said most advertisers were back in the business. The company’s ad business continues to soar, in part because, like Facebook, it doesn’t depend on blue chip advertisers for the majority of its revenue. (Consumer brands typically face the most pressure to boycott tech companies following a scandal.)
  • Netflix saw a brief spike in subscriber cancellations following the backlash from the launch of a French film titled “Cuties,” but the following quarter Netflix subscriber additions spiked again.
  • Amazon has been the target of a viral pro-Labour boycott campaign timed for a labor push in Bessemer, Alabama. The union teaming up with Alabama workers said it was not involved in the boycott call, and many argued the effort was counterproductive. In the month following the campaign — and the rejected labor campaign (since ordered to be redone) — Amazon stock jumped 33%.

Contributor: Associated press

Comments are closed.