The Great Spotify Boycott: Why It’s Time To Switch Streaming Platforms
Updated: Feb 17
Musician giants Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Crosby, Stills and Nash have officially left Spotify. Hell, even the internet’s beloved Anthony Fantano cancelled his Spotify subscription, and the internet sent #CancelSpotify to the trending page on Twitter.
This is all in response to the spread of vaccine misinformation shared across the Spotify-exclusive Joe Rogan podcast. While there’s no question that taking a stand against misinformation is essential, the beginnings of this boycott could also help address Spotify’s ugly systemic issues.
Below, we’ll share a comprehensive overview of the great Spotify Boycott and share a couple of reasons why you might want to make the jump, too.
What’s With #CancelSpotify?
Part of the reason why Joe Rogan has developed a boastful following is his willingness to host contentious guests and casual discourse regarding complex topics. Understandably, Rogan has come under fire for making unequivocally false claims like: 1) A vaccine can alter your genes. 2) Young people are better off not being vaccinated. 3) Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone who insisted that those who have had COVID-19 shouldn’t bother getting vaccinated.
Not to mention, Rogan’s recent guest Jordan Peterson also claimed that the world’s dire state of climate “could not be accurately modeled” which is an incredibly harmful suggestion that leads to the dangerous dismissal of climate change.
Joe Rogan has apologized for some of his claims, though it’s difficult to distance the clear misinformation spewed by some of his guests.
So, where does Spotify come into play? Well, in May 2020, Spotify signed an exclusive contract with Joe Rogan in a historic $100 million deal. This effectively transformed Spotify from a neutral streaming platform (but still problematic - we'll get to that later) to a content producer.
Fast forward to January 2022, Neil Young announces he will be removing all music from Spotify in protest of Rogan's spread of misinformation. It's worth noting that Young is a polio survivor himself and has beef with the platform in the past -- Spotify is notorious for over-compressing tracks and not providing a lossless audio option for listeners who want to hear music as it was intended.
Legendary Joni Mitchell followed suit, standing in solidarity with Neil Young and 270 medical experts who signed an open letter to the streaming platform. Spotify originally tried to take the stance that the wouldn't alter Rogan's episodes in anyway, comparing the host to "well-paid rappers" who aren't censored in their songs.
Rogan went onto respond following media backlash, framing the podcast as merely a place to have discussions with a wide variety of guests and said that, "sometimes I get things wrong":
Rogan claimed he would work to research topics to the best of his abilities before speaking with certain guests and "try to have on more guests with differing opinions".
Spotify eventually listened to its audience (a rare occurrence) and is promising to rollout a content advisory on any podcast that delves into Covid-19 to direct to a "data-driven" hub presenting information shared by scientists and academics.
Should You Drop Spotify?
Joe Rogan's spread of misinformation may have opened the wound, but Spotify has a long, continued history of being problematic, especially for artists. Many creators, myself included, are hoping that this boycott can serve as the seedling for bringing long-awaited change to the popular streaming platform.
The elephant in the room is Spotify's incredibly low streaming payouts. Here is what an artist makes in royalties from the biggest platforms on the market, per 1000 streams (Source):
Amazon Prime — $1.39 per 1000 streams
Amazon Unlimited — $10.96 per 1000 streams
Anghami — $0.79 per 1000 streams
Apple Music — $6.77 per 1000 streams
Deezer — $4.12 per 1000 streams
Google Play All Access — $2.22 per 1000 streams
KKBox — $4 per 1000 streams
Medianet — $1.48 per 1000 streams
Medianet Downloads — $0.70 per download
Napster — $7.88 per 1000 streams
NetEase — $0.41 per 1000 streams
Spotify — $2.29 per 1000 streams
Tidal — $6.85 per 1000 streams
TikTok — $0.97 per 1000x used
YouTube — $3.24 per 1000 views
YouTube Red — $9.90 per 1000 views
It's one of the lowest paying platforms out there, despite being a direct competitor to other streaming giants like Apple Music who pay their artists much more. If you don't want to drop Spotify for their wishy-washy policies, the lack of payout to the musicians who created their platform is enough reason on its own.
At the end of the day, Spotify will always be beholden to their pocket books and nothing else. Actions speak louder than words, and the "music for everyone" platform fails to live up to its own expectations. To add salt to the wound, the tech company's CEO invested $85.2 million into military defense technology, rather than reinvesting into the backbone of Spotify: the creators held hostage to a meager streaming payout.
What If All of My Fans Still Use Spotify?
It seems like plenty of indie artists would be more than willing to leave Spotify --- if only there was an easy way to migrate their fanbase. Here are a couple of tips to navigate your way through the Spotify boycott from an indie artist's point of view:
Find a balance between catering to your fans and owning your audience. You should always try to be as accessible as possible to your fans while still meeting your own needs. However, it's important to start to take more ownership over your audience by cultivating email lists, building a discord, or creating a social media platform. If you have a platform to announce your migration, more people are likely to follow in your path.
Spread awareness to your fanbase. Your fanbase simply might not know that Spotify doesn't provide a reasonable royalty rate. Educating your audience may help them make the jump to a new space.
Provide feedback. Spotify admittedly has a lot of features and friendly UX that help new artists get discovered. Platforms like Apple Music could use feedback to make their interfaces a bit more fan-friendly, so let them know.
Remember that there is strength in numbers. There's no denying that small indie artists won't have a lot of leverage when leaving the platform. However, there's strength in numbers and a great opportunity to enact real change through advocacy and awareness.
Diversify your assets. With anything in life, you can always provide yourself with more security if you split up the pie, so to speak. This is a good time to revaluate how much time you spend across each platform and strategize how you can market your music wherever your music is hosted.
Hopefully, this discourse around streaming platforms will only continue to gain momentum. In the meantime, musicians can look forward to earning more from their music with the advent of Web 3.
If there ever was a good time make the jump from Spotify, it's now.