Neil Young followed up his withdrawal from Spotify last week by entering what appears to be a partnership with Amazon Music, offering his fans a free four-month trial and demonstrating the narrow scope of his activist stand.

The legendary songwriter had given the Big Green Circle an ultimatum — stop platforming Joe Rogan’s COVID-19 misinformation, or he’d take his business elsewhere. Spotify chose Rogan; no surprise, considering they had reportedly invested more than $100 million to make his podcast Spotify exclusive. But the decision sparked a chain reaction that saw #CancelSpotify trend on Twitter, as other icons such as Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren of Crazy Horse and the E Street Band pulled their own music in solidarity with Young. Spotify lost $4 billion in market value in less than a week.

This will be welcome news to anyone disturbed by Rogan’s persistent vaccine denialism. But some had hoped that the dustup would cause a wider reckoning with Spotify’s problematic behavior, especially the extremely low payout rates for artists. As one viral tweet put it, “Joe Rogan is making as much as 100 million on Spotify while artists have to get 350 plays to make a dollar? I’d leave just over that.” Another person wrote, “In a weird way we’re lucky Spotify gave R*g*n all that money. It provides a specific thing to focus on about why Spotify is bad, because the fact that Spotify (and major labels) don’t compensate artists fairly seems unfortunately very unlikely to make people abandon it.”


As Young’s advertisement for Amazon makes clear, labor rights are not his chief concern. He also does not seem bothered that Amazon recently cut paid COVID leave time for infected workers, or that the company reportedly massively underreported employee infections at work, even as some of its warehouses suffered prolonged outbreaks for over a year. Young also doesn’t seem perturbed by the fact that Amazon Music provides a platform to other sources of COVID-19 misinformation, such as Fox News and Breitbart Podcasts.

Young is fighting the battle that he thinks is most important. He seems to be winning, too; Spotify has added “content advisories” on COVID-19 content, and on Sunday, Rogan posted a video responding to the controversy, pledging to “balance things out” and “research topics.” But if Young’s fans and Spotify’s detractors want to accomplish more than that, even as the platform pushes ever lower payout rates, we’ll have to do it ourselves.