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You Keep Using That Word. I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means...

I had initially intended to write about the whole Spotify matter regarding Neil Young and Joe Rogan, as that was the first thing in a long while to pique my interest in regards to writing a piece about it. And admittedly, it was going to side with Neil Young while pointing out the points, good and bad, made by Joe Rogan. But as Neil Young has decided to instead side with this reality's equivalent of Dr. Evil, Jeff Bezos, it's more difficult to side with the man.


When this whole fiasco began about a week and a half ago, it seemed pretty clear how things would go down. While Neil Young certainly had the moral high ground, almost no one realistically expected Spotify to turn their back on Joe Rogan, considering they had dropped around $100 million to make him exclusive to their platform two years ago. And for those who need to see just how many zeroes are in that amount of money, let me show you: $100,000,000. That amount of money could buy a lot of pizza rolls.


When Young pulled his catalog from the streaming network, it seemed like Spotify had garnered a win-win. They kept Rogan, and although they didn't have Young's solo work, they did have his output with Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, as well as various live recordings on compilations. But then, something else happened that no one expected: Joni Mitchell joined the cause. Rumors began to swirl of other artists pulling their catalogs, including the Foo Fighters. Reports came out of Spotify losing anywhere from $4,000,000,000 to $20,000,000,000 in a weekend.


Some even began to cry about alleged censorship. Ironically enough, that same weekend, a Tennessee school board had voted to ban Art Spiegelman's "Maus," a Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel in which Jews are drawn as mice and Nazis are depicted as cats, citing objections to nudity and profanity in the text (It makes me wonder what that school board thinks of Donald Duck or Winnie the Pooh never wearing pants. Hell, by their rationale, a good chunk of the Looney Tunes characters are always in the buff). Yet no one seemed to bat an eye about that by comparison. We want our modern conveniences, dammit!


What struck me the most about the cries of alleged censorship was how nuanced both sides quickly became. It shouldn't be too surprising in this modern age, but it felt like a story that could perfectly fit into the divided society we all seem to get off on. One side claimed that Neil Young was trying to censor Joe Rogan. That wasn't it at all. Neil Young was not happy with what he viewed as a streaming service spreading possible misinformation, and he didn't want to be associated with that. And I agree with that stance 1000%. As a person, you have to decide what you want to stand for. What it is that you want your voice to say. Even more so if you're an artist in the public forum.


The only people who can censor are the owner of the press (whatever platform) and the government. If you wrote something about someone and that person boycotts you, that isn't censorship. If the boycott got big enough that a book store stops carrying your books because they don't sell, that isn't censorship. That is capitalism. But if the publisher takes it out or the government doesn't let it be sold, that is censorship.


And while Joe Rogan is allowed to say whatever he feels, there is also the moral responsibility that comes with that. When what he or a guest is saying could potentially spread misinformation or cause harm to others, that is when we have a problem. And while many podcasts that talk about COVID do carry warnings about consulting a doctor regarding any of the information shared on that show, most people in today's society aren't going to be bothered with that much hard work. Let alone if they even have the money to see a doctor in the first place.


As odd as this may sound, I will defend Rogan, the man (Well, to a degree. He often comes off sounding like an alpha tool). But not his guest selection. He, like most jesters, is contrarian. So they want the contrary opinion and point of view, which is excellent. I want to know the evidence against the whatever. However, with that comes a need to have the critical thinking skills to listen to an opinion and take it for what it is: an opinion. Not a fact. And unfortunately, most of his fans seem to take everything on Rogan's show as gospel. And therein lies his responsibility to distinguish fact from opinion.


Some even cried about "self-censorship" with Young taking his music off the streaming platform. My first thought when I saw this was, "these people are not familiar with the feud between Neil Young and David Geffen" (For more info regarding Young's time feuding with Geffen, take an afternoon to Google that yourself. That is a whole other can of worms). Whatever one may think of Neil Young, he is undoubtedly a man who sticks with his convictions. And that is something that will always be admirable.


But that came to a screeching halt when Young started promoting Amazon Music as a viable substitute to Spotify. And to be fair, the royalty rates for musicians are slightly higher on Amazon music. Instead of making an average of $00.004 a play, an artist can make $00.008. Well, my musician friends can quit their service industry jobs in no time with rates like that! (I hope you all read that last line with the sarcasm that was intended.)


But, considering the skeletons in the closet of Amazon founder Jeff Bozos, it's not as easy standing on the side of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and a bunch of other aging Laurel Canyon singer/songwriters, who have been the most high profile names to stand beside Neil Young. And I'm not saying that as a way of knocking other musicians for staying silent. Most musicians of Young's era either had terrible deals from the start or sold their discography for a late in life cash grab.


It's hard enough to figure out which way is up in the world. And bullshit like this just makes it even more difficult. Most of us just want to do the right thing. But sometimes it's hard to hear yourself think when the rich are yelling too loud.

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