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Neil Young. Photo by Bloomberg.

What Neil Young’s Protest Means to Spotify

Photo: Neil Young. Photo by Bloomberg.

You can be a huge fan of Neil Young (guilty!) but still acknowledge that his decision to pull his music off Spotify, in a protest over its hosting of Joe Rogan, probably won’t cause millions of people to cancel their Spotify accounts. Yes, Spotify subscribers could switch to Apple. Given the likely age of the 76-year-old rocker’s typical fan, though, let’s assume Spotify CEO Daniel Ek isn’t losing sleep over this specific dispute.

Ek may be worrying more about what comes next. In particular, what happens if another, younger artist—or a group of artists—with a bigger fan base among younger generations—follows suit? Considering how often artists complain about the money they make from Spotify, it doesn’t seem they have that much to lose. That situation would force Ek to decide what is more important: the company’s original music business or its podcasting expansion. While there’s a freedom of speech principle that Ek may want to uphold, there’s also a business issue that’s much more acute.

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