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Donald Trump’s opinions, Joe Rogan’s racial slurs, and Neil Young’s activism: Here’s the latest in the wild Spotify saga

February 8, 2022, 11:29 PM UTC

For much of the first year after Spotify spent $100 million for the rights to host “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the controversial podcast host went mostly unchecked in the guests he invited.

That changed last month, after a group of more than 260 doctors, academics, and scientists signed an open letter urging Spotify to do more about what they say is several instances of coronavirus vaccine misinformation Rogan shared on the podcast, which has more than 11 million daily listeners

Neil Young reportedly read that letter, and subsequently wrote his own letter to his management team and record label with an ultimatum: “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Young penned his letter on Jan. 25, and in the weeks since then, the conflict between Spotify, Joe Rogan, various music artists, and the public at large, has taken a series of twists and turns that have made it a rare mainstay in the 24 hour news cycle. 

Here are the latest developments in the seemingly never-ending saga between Joe Rogan and Spotify.

The Impact of Young’s Activism

Not long after Young made his ultimatum, Joni Mitchell and a slew of other major artists joined Young in pulling their music from Spotify to protest what they say is Rogan’s consistent spreading of COVID vaccine misinformation. 

As a result, Spotify announced it was adding an advisory to all podcasts that discuss the COVID pandemic. In the first of two apology videos posted to Instagram, Rogan pledged to invite guests who promote vaccines as often he does those who are skeptical.  

“I’m going to do my best, in the future, to balance things out,” Rogan said in a Jan. 30 Instagram post

Young urged Spotify employees earlier this week to quit the company altogether. 

“To the workers at SPOTIFY, I say Daniel Ek is your big problem – not Joe Rogan,” Young wrote in a blog post, calling out the company’s CEO by name. “Get out of that place before it eats up your soul.” 

Other musicians have since joined in on Young’s calls to boycott Spotify, and are asking users to support other platforms that pay artists more per stream, like Apple Music or TIDAL. Spotify reportedly pays artists an average of $.0038 per stream.

A Series of Public Apologies

Rogan’s next Instagram apology came just over a week later, this time after his repeated use of the N-word in past podcasts was uncovered and a story in which he compared entering a predominantly Black neighborhood to the movie Planet of the Apes went viral on Twitter

After documentation of Rogan’s repeated use of racial slurs gained traction on social media, Spotify removed more than 70 episodes of the podcast from its platform without explanation. In an internal memo, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said removing the podcasts was Rogan’s decision. 

“I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”

Trump and the right weigh in

Former President Donald Trump weighed in on the saga Monday night and offered his advice for how Rogan should deal with the criticism he’s received.

“Joe Rogan is an interesting and popular guy, but he’s got to stop apologizing to the Fake News and Radical Left maniacs and lunatics,” Trump said in a news release from his Save America PAC. “How many ways can you say you’re sorry? Joe, just go about what you do so well and don’t let them make you look weak and frightened.”

That same day, Rogan received support from another prominent source of right-wing content online. Rumble, the Trump-affiliated video platform site, publicly offered to host Rogan’s podcast and match Spotify’s $100 million deal, though there’s been no indication that Rogan would end his deal with Spotify.

Neither Joe Rogan nor Spotify responded to Fortune’s request for comment at the time of publication. 

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