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5+ Reasons To Delete Spotify That Have Nothing To Do With Joe Rogan

Playlists includes not paying artist fairly, questionable patents, and investments in defense tech.

dump spotify. (Image: Spotify (logo) and Alyssa Shotwell.

The discourse around quitting Spotify due to the platform’s continued support of Joe Rogan is ongoing. Some people may still be on the fence, so I wanted to share some other very valid reasons to separate yourself from the streaming service.

Many of my thoughts on Spotify have built up over the years, and I think being able to step back and look at everything outside of an isolated controversy shows a pattern of disappointment and exploitation. Whether it was from a news publication or The Internet’s Busiest Music NerdAnthony Fantano, I rarely heard anything good coming from the platform.

I’m not offering up alternatives because each platform comes with its own problems, and my way of reducing harm may not fit someone else’s budget. However, to shrug and say “there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism” is not good enough—especially if you are paying for Spotify.

Before diving into this, remember that you are not paying for a service—much like with social media, you are the product. Even if you pay, your data and attention can still be the product. If you’re looking for a way to support artists without Spotify, check out this comment thread and the discussions happening there.

Accusations of punishing Apple collaboration

In 2016, Spotify insiders and some artists accused the platform of deprioritizing rankings of their songs due to partnerships with Apple Music. Because the information comes from unnamed sources, this reason is the weakest, but still worth thinking about, especially regarding other complaints.

I couldn’t care less about which mega streaming service makes the most money. Apple and Spotify as competitors have continual beef, and Spotify’s has been in the right a few times. The only reason this particular instance is worth a second glance is how it is another example of the rift between artists and Spotify.

Not paying artists, then demanding they make more music

The amount of money Spotify keeps from artists is discussed a lot. I’m keeping it very brief. However, it’s still worth bringing up considering how the whole Rogan critique is that he isn’t just on the platform, but they paid 100 million dollars for him to be on the platform exclusively.

Big and small artists alike continually call Spotify out for this. This chart, made from data shared by T-Pain, constructed by Digital Music News, and tweaked by fans online is one of many examples.

Often, thinly veiled prejudices (such as sexism and racism) have colored how the public reacted to each round of callouts. Even the more famous artists who have spoken out haven’t seen much change as a result, and the only reason they’re even capable of drawing attention is through their own massive fan followings. Artists with less star power are unable to even really join in with raising complaints.

To add insult to injury, CEO Daniel Ek decided to give some unsolicited advice to musicians—namely, telling them that they need to release music more than every few years. The full statement offers some nuance, but still, he has no room to speak on this. Also, I’m sure he doesn’t mean to make more music and then not release it on Spotify.

COVID-19 created further instability for artists now limited on opportunities to make money. The lack of concerts, galas, and tours has caused a lot of stress to mid-size and smaller musicians—especially those with staff and families to support. Ek does not see his employees or the artists, all of whom are making him incredibly rich, as people, but as units and products.

Offering to pay artists even less for exposure

In 2020, Spotify announced an experiment by offering musicians (at any stage in their career) the chance to be featured higher in rankings and appear in more streams. If their songs didn’t perform well, they would adjust within the algorithm. What was the catch? They must agree to take a reduction in already abysmal royalty rates.

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In addition to artists calling this out, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone both referred to this model as a modern “payola,” or pay-to-play—a form of undisclosed bribery used by the music industry to radio stations, the FCC outlawed the practice. Legislators and regulators have yet to address this modern version practiced by Spotify.

Questionable patents & investment in “defense tech”

On February 1, 2021, the U.S. approved a 2018 patent request from Spotify that stated they aim to record users’ speech and background noise for music curation. The speech data collected includes potential uses such as intonation (rise and fall of sound), stress, rhythm, etc. from the user’s voice. Pitchfork also reported that the patent included plans to expand to metadata such as “emotional state, gender, age, accent, and environment.”

This patent is for a product that, to our knowledge, doesn’t exist yet. Though, based on the trajectory of speech recognition tech, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” someone like Spotify attempts to use this. Netflix, Youtube, and other algorithmic platforms have already run into issues when relying on algorithmic determinations based on identity and emotional state for content, so what makes Spotify think they do it better and safer?

Speaking of tech and topping this whole list off is Ek’s $100 million investment in’s “defense tech.” Yes, the platform is seemingly unable to pay its artists and everything covered above, but Ek’s money made from it is going directly into military infrastructure. Many artists began removing their work from the platform in December 2021, when this information was made public by reporters.

Unfortunately, wealthy CEOs investing in AI weaponry is not new. However, to head a music platforming service while doing so is a joke that writes itself.

Editor’s Note 2/14/2022: A previous version of this article expressed concerns about payment to electronic music artists working with Epidemic Sound. Epidemic Sound reached out to clarify that they split streaming proceeds 50/50 with artists.

Correction 3/9/2022: Updated to specify that Epidemic Sound splits streaming revenue 50/50 with artists—not licensing revenue, as our editor’s note previously stated.

(via fantano and Pitchfork, image: Spotify (logo) and Alyssa Shotwell)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time watching movies, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Balder's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO.