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Opinion columnist Ashley Hays argues why Spotify should remove "The Joe Rogan Experience" from its service.

Spotify has dug itself a deep, dark hole as the Joe Rogan controversy has taken center stage. It all began when folk-rock artist Neil Young removed his music from the platform, shortly followed by Joni Mitchell. The two took a stance against the COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation spread throughout the platform, particularly on the podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience."

Young wrote in his newsletter: “To the musicians and creators in this world, I say this: You must be able to find a better place than Spotify to be the home of your art.” 

What Young says so simply in his quote is how we all should be reacting to the controversy. There are other places for listeners to foster their lust for art other than Spotify, which continues to amplify some voices and silence those of others. 

Following Young and Mitchell's departure, many other artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, decided to remove their music in solidarity. 

As a big Neil Young and Joni Mitchell fan, I am upset that I can no longer listen to their music on Spotify; I recognize that artists like Young and Mitchell were right to remove their music. This sparked an important conversation about what it means for us as listeners to support Spotify as it continues to allow Rogan to persevere on its platform. 

Sophomore Owen Russell shared his thoughts on the musician's decision to pull their music.

“When I heard about the Neil Young things, I was like ‘Go Neil,’" Russell said. “It’s so enjoyable to watch this barbarian [Rogan] and megacorp [Spotify] take a huge L.” 

Spotify remained relatively quiet as artists on the platform began speaking up against the inequitable philosophy that it has towards its artists. The controversy was taken up a notch as a compilation video of Rogan using a racial slur - multiple times - went viral. Over 100 episodes of Joe Rogan's podcast were removed from Spotify as more and more musicians protested the platform for allowing Rogan to boost falsehoods concerning the coronavirus.

Rogan claims that he is not “anti-vaccine,” but that could not be further from the truth. He has said things like: “Healthy young people don’t need a Covid vaccine” and “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go ‘no.’”

Rogan went as far as recommending horse dewormers as a way to treat the virus. 

This unveiling of unfortunate truths concerning both Spotify and Rogan has led to a snowball development, shedding light on Spotify’s mistreatment and underpayment of their artists, as well as Rogan’s racist past and present. 

What we have learned from the Joe Rogan controversy is a crisis much larger and more important than Rogan alone. Despite Spotify’s attempt to ease the tension by removing some of Rogan’s episodes on its platform, it stood solidly in allowing “The Joe Rogan Experience” to persevere, even though Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent a memo to the Spotify staff condemning Rogan's language, calling it "incredibly hurtful.”

What Spotify needs to understand is that those words are more than just “incredibly hurtful,” and that Spotify’s allowance for Rogan to remain on his pedestal is disgraceful. It highlights the racial capitalism that lives in this country. This process occurs as society is emanating social or economic power from racial identities of that outside of the euro-centric bubble. Spotify is essentially attempting to distract from the fact that the decisions being made by its company are done to benefit the racial capitalist society that it benefits from.

How can Spotify say that it stands in solidarity with marginalized communities when it tolerates white supremacist culture on its platform? Behavior like this incites hatred amongst marginalized groups, and that should not be tolerated. Spotify’s decision to allow this circulation of white supremacist culture to remain on its platform shows where its stand, and that what it really values is profit over people. 

 “It is funny in a schadenfreude way but honestly, it sucks,” said Russell, “The way a third of America consumes its music through a giant megacorp that doesn't pay its artists but drops $100 mill on a shitty interviewer who encourages misinformation through abusing 'free speech' and straight-up using the N-word.”