Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Welcome back, boycotter

Neil Young started it all when he pulled his music from Spotify. He said it’s Rogan or Young, not both. I got ready to cancel my own Spotify subscription.

But I didn’t pull the trigger, and I haven’t pulled it yet, days later.

I’ve been told I shouldn’t be doing business with Amazon either, but I haven’t cut those ties. They host my books, for one thing (though I can’t say they actually sell my books, if you catch my drift). They also make it easy to buy things that aren’t available in local stores up here in the foothills, so you could say they allow me not to drive a significant distance all the time, thus saving fuel and sparing the air. There are pluses and minuses.

I do boycott Facebook, though not entirely because they’re evil (which they are). It’s just that, in a weird anomaly, I’m locked out of my account and don’t care enough to try to get back in. I wanted to get back in to delete the account, but it’s not worth the hours of effort to get it done.

You can make a case for avoiding Google too. And Walmart. And Starbucks. The truth is, there are a lot of companies with sketchy business and labor practices, and you could weave a tangled network of boycotts if you wanted to. Your life would get awfully complicated.

Everyone’s running to Apple Music from Spotify, but I’m not all that sure Apple is squeaky clean. There’s the little matter of their Chinese labor. And I have a problem with their obvious strategy of planned obsolescence. They do pay more to artists per stream than Spotify, but Spotify’s not the worst offender in that area. Also, I get nervous when a company seems to dominate more than one sector of life, and Apple’s definitely shooting for that kind of control.

Bottom line is, the Spotify boycott is all about the Joe Rogan podcast, in which Rogan and guests have spread mis- and disinformation about covid, vaccines, and folk therapies like ivermectin. It’s bad, what Rogan is up to (especially because of his “I’m just asking questions” shtick), and millions of people believe what they hear on his show. I’m definitely boycotting Joe Rogan, which happens to be super easy for me. I boycott Fox News too. Even easier.

I do think it’s the artists’ prerogative to refuse to share the platform with a Joe Rogan, and it’s encouraging to see more and more of them dropping the service. To my mind, that has a larger impact than individuals canceling. It gets ink in the papers. It keeps the issue alive. Let’s face it: Unless mass cancellations cause pain that would exceed the cost of dropping Rogan (who has an exclusive $100 million deal with Spotify), the company will absorb the loss. It’s a foreign entity, by the way, and Rogan is a purely American problem. Subscribers in Europe and Asia won’t be dropping out because of it.

In other words, canceling makes you feel good but doesn’t inflict a lot of ouch on Spotify. Again, look at Amazon. Despite millions who refuse to do business with them, the company’s worth $1.65 trillion. Look at AT&T, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, McDonald’s—none of them is without sin. If you drop Spotify but not AT&T (for supporting OANN), can you explain the difference?

I’ll be interested to see how this all shakes down, but companies don’t really have moral hearts, and when their raison d’être is shareholder value, I’d be surprised if the boycott gets the desired results. The newly announced content advisories will provide a comforting smokescreen for most people.

Just out of curiosity, have you dropped Spotify in solidarity with Mr. Young?



31 comments on “Welcome back, boycotter

  1. denizb33
    February 2, 2022

    I haven’t dropped Spotify either (I’m not on it much, anyway, because importing all my YouTube playlists didn’t work very well) for much the same reason — I think Neil Young speaking out about this issue is much more important than simply removing his music. All this talk about it in the news is likely having more of an impact!

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      Yeah, I worry about my playlists too. Years in the making! The sad thing to me is, Spotify, and probably many other media companies, see an opportunity to make money on misinformers like Rogan. They see “11 million listeners” and go KA-CHING!

  2. islandeditions
    February 2, 2022

    What’s Spotify? 🙂

  3. Gary Trujillo
    February 2, 2022

    You’d have to pull a Ted Kaczynski in order to be completely free of corporate control, so I suppose we can all try to do the best we can. I can’t see how dropping Spotify would benefit anyone in my case because I listen to free music and they haven’t received a penny from me.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      Yeah, we all have our personal limits, and we know “unacceptable” when we see it. Ted might have been on to something in that manifesto of his! 🤔

  4. pinklightsabre
    February 2, 2022

    I haven’t dropped but I admire the move. He’ll likely be back too (I think he’s done this a couple times before and quietly returned). I can’t stand Apple Music. Do you remember when iTunes did that thing with U2 where they kind of forced a U2 album on everyone’s device? That chaffed my hide for some reason. This is a good piece though Kevin, thanks. I hadn’t heard of Joe before this thing and I wonder if it’s helped his popularity some. There’s an analogy too to the best selling authors from last year, I think at least one of them was also spreading disinformation on vaccines and so on.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      I remember the U2 thing. It’s still on my iTunes, god damn it! I bet you’re right about Rogan’s popularity; he’s getting a fresh look from a lot of people because of this. Oy.

      • pinklightsabre
        February 2, 2022

        It’s gross, the Rogan talk. And the continued lack of leadership from the platforms who just wait for us to move on to the next thing we care about. Which takes what, a day?

      • Kevin Brennan
        February 2, 2022

        So right, Bill. Strange times, these.

  5. kingmidget
    February 2, 2022

    Everything you say here is spot on. Good to the artists for taking a stand, but … as you say, if we boycott every company with questionable business practices these days, we’d be stuck at home, sitting unclothed on a bare floor and looking at a blank wall for entertainment. And we would consider ourselves fortunate to have that wall.

    I live on Spotify.

    And here’s the thing for me. I compare it to the Charlottesville Nazi March a few years ago. So many people shouted that they shouldn’t be allowed to march, and many showed up to try to shout them down. We are supposed to live in a free country, where freedom of expression is sacrosanct. Rather than stopping them from marching or blocking their march or trying to yell louder, we should have paid witness to the march and responded forcefully with stronger ideas. It’s that last part fhat for some reason seems to problematic and difficult. I feel the same way about Rogan on Spotify. You don’t try to block him or have him dropped. You provide a platform with better ideas. I think the problem with Rogan is that he generally hosts the crackpots and the crazies without hosting people with more rational and responsible views. (And I could be completely wrong about that, having never listened to his show.) The interesting thing to me is that he claimed there were only 2-3 episodes where this was an issue, but I read somewhere that Spotify has eliminated several dozen episodes of his show. So … who knows.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      I’ve always been an ACLU 1st amendment kind of guy, recalling the famous Nazi march in Skokie. I think you’re right. Don’t confront bad ideas with noise; broadcast better ideas. The bad news about Rogan is that he’s part of the “alternative facts” universe, and so many people tune into that world because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by reality. Just as the right can’t produce good comedians, the left can’t seem to tap into the radio talk show and podcast market and get the same kind of numbers. The bigger megaphone seems to win arguments.

      Frankly, having watched Rogan’s response video the other day, I think he’s even more dangerous than I thought before!

      • kingmidget
        February 2, 2022

        Yes, the left doesn’t do as well at this as the right. The right plays into the anger and fear in a visceral way that works. People who are angry and fearful generally don’t do facts well, particularly if those facts are designed to alleviate their anger and fear. That anger and fear is like their car. Can’t live without it.

      • Kevin Brennan
        February 2, 2022

        Great analogy! 🚗😡🚗😡🚗😡🚗😡

  6. Tim Baker
    February 2, 2022

    I’ve been contemplating a blog post about this issue for a while now – I no longer have to because I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      Thanks, Tim! This definitely isn’t an easy issue to confront. You’d like your protest to be effective, yet it’s hard to be heard these days with all the noise out there. More and more, “keep your head down” seems to be a smart way to go. 😬

  7. loristory
    February 2, 2022

    I have my own songs up on Spotify and nobody but me listens to them (in fact, I don’t, either) so no, pulling them isn’t worth the trouble. I did consider it, though. So I logged on for the first time in months and discovered that they’ve mistakenly added a track by Dua Lipa to my band’s album! But more to your point, I think us little people boycotting them won’t make a difference. We’re all screwed anyway. Oops. My pessimism is showing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      Hey, I share your pessimism. Can’t see how things improve without getting a whole lot worse first. Still, we have the little things that make life better–such as music. On Spotify. Doh!!

  8. Marie A Bailey
    February 2, 2022

    Great post, Kevin. I have a Spotify account but it’s not on my phone right now because I didn’t want to pay 😉 I used to be all about boycotting but it’s not that easy anymore. Greg will order something from a direct source and it gets delivered in an Amazon box. Oy. I just try to minimize my use of businesses like Amazon: now when I want/need to buy a book online, I go to Bookstore.org rather than Amazon. The prices are competitive, the delivery times are about the same, and my local independent bookstore gets a small commission from my purchases. Win-win.

    I actually was thinking of putting Spotify back on my phone. Instructors at my yoga studio use it a lot and share their playlists so … 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 2, 2022

      Funny, but I seldom buy a book at Amazon. Almost anything else, but rarely books. Thanks for the tip about Bookstore.org!

      Just remembered. I’m also boycotting Texas, which is easy to do and doesn’t hurt anybody … 😄

      • Marie A Bailey
        February 3, 2022

        You might ask Audrey Kalman about Bookstore. They have online author “shops” where you can earn a commission if someone purchases your book from there.

        I would like to avoid Texas altogether but we’re scheduled to go to San Antonio in April 2024 for the Total Solar Eclipse. Should be interesting 😉

  9. equipsblog
    February 3, 2022

    No need to drop a company I never saw the need to join.

  10. Matt
    February 6, 2022

    Ivermectin is not a “folk therapy.” Its efficacy vs. covid was first reported by researchers at Monash University’s Biomedicine department, then by university researchers in South America. Ivermectin has been used extensively across the world by government health agencies, as both a prophylactic and therapeutic, most notably in India where dramatic results were realized.

  11. Tim Baker
    February 7, 2022

    So – let me see if I understand…a study in Australia and another in South America are apparently enough to convince you that horse dewormer is a viable treatment – but the word of countless doctors and scientists on the rest of the planet aren’t enough to convince you to that it isn’t true? Do you mix that ivermectin with your kool-aid?

    • Matt
      February 7, 2022

      My point was that, as ivermectin’s use to treat covid has been suggested by scientific researchers, and employed by medical professionals and government health agencies world-word, it is inaccurate to describe it as ‘folk therapy.’

  12. Matt
    February 11, 2022

    And you’re selectively censoring my comments. Kevin. Is that any way to treat a neighbor?

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