Neil Young was unable to take his songs off Spotify on his own This is why.
Neil Young was unable to take his songs off
Neil Young was unable to take his songs off Spotify on his own. This is why.
After the singer insisted that Spotify choose between his music and Joe Rogan‘s program, Spotify pulled all of Neil Young’s tracks at his request this week. Young accused the comedian and streaming service of disseminating disinformation about COVID and anti-vaccine attitudes.
In 2020, Spotify agreed to pay Rogan $100 million for exclusive rights to his program, The Joe Rogan Experience, making it the most expensive podcast agreement ever. With 11 million users, the show is a huge source of influence and revenue for Spotify. Rogan, on the other hand, has been the subject of increased investigation in the last year. Last spring, Spotify took down 42 of Rogan’s episodes because they contained contentious guests and subjects. 270 Health also penned an open letter to Rogan earlier last month, accusing him of “broadcasting falsehoods, notably over the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Young followed through on his promise once it became evident that Spotify would not be eliminating Rogan’s show, but he couldn’t do it on his own—he needed to contact his record company first.
So, who is the owner of Neil Young’s songs?
Young, like many other artists, was unable to freely remove his own songs from Spotify due to a lack of control over his licensing rights.
Young’s record label, Warner Bros.-Reprise Records, owns the licensing rights to his songs. Warner Bros. is responsible for making partnerships with third parties that may duplicate Young’s work, such as Spotify.
Young said on his official website Wednesday. “I was informed by my own legal forces that legally I did not have the power of my music to do that before I contacted my pals at Warner Bros about my wish to quit the Spotify platform.” I’d want to express my gratitude to Warner Brothers–Reprise Records, my absolutely fantastic and supportive record label, for supporting me in my choice to remove all of my songs from Spotify. Thank you very much! “
Warner Bros. did not react immediately to Fortune’s request for comment.
Many other artists don’t have control over their songs’ rights.
Young is far from the only artist that has to negotiate with their record company about how their music is used, since many artists who are lured into lucrative record agreements early in their careers never have the opportunity to control their rights at all.
Prince, another Warner Brothers musician, was notoriously embroiled in a decades-long legal dispute with his record label over his music’s ownership rights.
When a musician signs a contract with a record label, any licensing arrangement, such as the one between Young’s label and Spotify, is typically irreversible since the artist no longer has complete ownership over their song.
Spotify has a lot of clout with the labels they work with and the music rights they represent, and big streaming services account for the bulk of record companies’ earnings today. Young has said that his label’s relationship with Spotify accounts for 60% of his music’s streaming revenue.
So, who owns the rights to their own songs?
Some musicians have sought to retain creative control and publication rights for their music, referred to as “master recordings,” which are essentially copyrights to utilize an artist’s music.
In 2004, after becoming the president of his own record company, rapper Jay-Z was one of the first to do so when he negotiated to have his rights restored to him.
Many of their own masters are now in the hands of Frank Ocean, U2, and Taylor Swift, with Swift even going so far as to re-record an entire album to retake ownership.
That implies they may do anything they want with them, such as removing them entirely from a streaming platform without obtaining permission from anybody else.
Contracts with new artists are typically put up early in the artist’s career, often when they first sign a deal with a record label, so that the record company maintains legal ownership of masters, rather than the artist.
Several musicians, including Adele, Thom Yorke, and The Black Keys, have previously criticized record companies’ licensing arrangements with Spotify for underpaying musicians. These artists all tried to keep their songs off Spotify, but in the end, they all caved in and allowed their labels to sign Spotify licensing deals.