Arcade Fire’s Will Butler weighs in on Neil Young, Joe Rogan & Spotify
Neil Young's decision to pull his music off Spotify over Joe Rogan's podcast, which streams exclusively on the service, continues to cause waves and discussion throughout the industry. Arcade Fire's Will Butler weighed in on the topic over the weekend with an op-ed The Atlantic that is less a polemic than a considered think-piece on the state of industry and the difficult place most artists, who aren't at the level of Neil Young, find themselves.
Among the many argued points is that Neil Young doesn't actually have the power to pull his own music off Spotify as he sold 50% of his rights to his longtime label, Warner Music, for a reported $150 million in 2021. "I suspect that the big record companies would dissolve if they weren’t still making so much money off the music of the 20th century," Butler writes.
Much of the piece, though, is devoted to where Spotify are as a company in 2022:
Spotify is betting that what used to be known as the music industry is in fact dead but that maybe the company can make money in the “audio industry.” But that shift involves decisions that disappoint even people jaded by years of experience with the recording business.
Spotify paid $100 million for the right to exclusively host Joe Rogan’s podcast. I don’t know many musicians who actually care deeply about the content of that podcast, but they are aware of the pitiful amounts—in most cases!—that come their way from Spotify. Many would gladly follow Neil Young off the platform if they could afford it and it didn’t mean severing connections to people who want to hear their music. In the context of the devaluation of so many artists’ work, the backing of Rogan feels like a particularly nihilistic move. Spotify didn’t sign him for his talent or care at all about his impact—good or ill—on the world; with a heartless, almost video-game sensibility, they signed him to take market share from Apple and Google.
Butler admires Neil for what he did, and probably Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and the other who have followed, too, but adds "Solidarity is a tempting response to technological change, but my tired brain just can’t see the mechanism for it in this era."
Read Will's whole piece at The Atlantic.