Stoic Challenge: Your Wrong. Let me tell you why.

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01/31/2021 Stoic Boot Camp Version

Your challenge is to understand someone or something you don’t understand. Take a position you really disagree with and understand why someone would take that position.

For a minute I was worried I would not be able to come up with a point of view that I both disagreed with and was not so fundamentally wrong that anyone who shares that point of view was not an evil, mentally ill criminal. Thankfully, Neil Young saved the day.

Neil has taken a stand against the music streaming service Spotify and their support for podcaster Joe Rogan. Joe is accused of spreading misinformation about Covid. He has an awful lot of company in this regard. Neil accuses him, to be more specific, of having guests that spread the misinformation and sitting passively by while they spout their nonsense.

Where the Spotify connection comes in is that Spotify spent an awful lot of money to get Joe as an exclusive podcaster. (Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 million dollars) so it is felt that Spotify are responsible for promoting his show and the content on that show.

Is Neil Young Correct?

He is not completely wrong. Joe Rogan himself points out that as a host for Fear Factor, bit player on NewsRadio and a commentator for UFC fights, he is not known as a medical professional. Now full disclosure, I have never listened to his show. The description of the show sounds pleasant and familiar. Joe has a guest on and allows the guest to go into a multi-hour deep dive on many subjects. In a time where we live with twenty-four-hour news and thier fifteen second soundbites along with all the intellectual heft that can fit in a 128 character Twitter post, allowing someone to talk for hours is downright refreshing.

So Neil’s issue is that when Joe has a guest, that spouts ridiculous information. (So tell me again about the Bigfoot and the advanced civilization he has built under the Cascade mountains.) Joe is more apt to uh-huh the guest or even agree with him to draw out more conversation. This hardly makes Joe unique among interviewers.

Neil has a particular dog in this fight as he got a polio before the vaccine was available and has suffered a slight limp as a result his entire life. He is also not a fan of Spotify in general as he has quit the service once before. (Due to streaming quality.)

So, is Neil wrong for leaving Spotify?

Again yes and no. It is fully his right to leave the service. I won’t really miss him (I had only a few of his songs in my streaming pile.). The fact he convinced Joni Mitchell also to leave, on the other hand, is a disaster for my breakup playlists. But Spotify loses songs all the time. (There are a few that hurt, including the soundtrack albums for Airplane, Conan the Barbarian, and Scarface.).

Spotify seems a strange target for Neil. Joe Rogan may be a mouth breathing moron with a gullible audience of bros. (This is the worst-case scenario I am not completely on board with) but he is only one piece of media on a service that has 3.2 million podcasts. And the other media that is now celebrating and hosting Neil isn’t really much better. Many carry and subsidise Fox News, for example, that has done much more damage in the vaccine misinformation space.

This is not the first time you have waved your fist at a cloud regarding artists and Spotify.

Oh, my god. Not my proudest or most stoic moment, to be sure. But yes, sometimes I yell at the television. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the artist. It was a female country and western singer. My memory says Reba McEntire, but a quick search seems to prove that incorrect. Maybe one of the Judds?

Anyway, in the interview, the conversation moved to streaming, and the artist mentioned they refused to allow their music to be streamed. That is not where my audience is, they claimed. Now imagine if an author tried to ban libraries from carrying thier books. (I found one children’s author who took that brave stance. Terry Deary, whose tirade against libraries includes the quote “Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that”)

As an artist, one would think that A: you want people to have access to your art. And B: you would want to attract new fans. If you are not streaming your music, you simply are not part of the conversation. You are simply never discovered by the new generations and forgotten by the old. I understand that writing and performing music is a job (As is writing books) and you want to get paid for that work. But there really is a higher calling where you also want to bring entertainment into the world with your gift. A little pollyannaish I understand, but it is a fundamental belief I have.

So are there any artists that simply don’t stream nowadays?

My God, the internet is full of crap. (What is with my rants this morning) So I looked up this question and found a website called Ranker that had an updated as of today blog “24 Musicians Against Spotify And Other Streaming Services”. Sounds right up my alley. Or it would have been if almost every artist listed on thier list was not completely and easily provably wrong. (No Ranker Prince, The Beatles and Bob Seger do allow streaming of thier music). About halfway down the list, I thought I finally hit pay dirt. Garth Brooks.

Now I was alive when Garth was selling more albums that Jesus in the early nineties, but I confess outside of one song “Friends in Low Places” I am unfamiliar with his catalog. A quick look at Spotify showed no Garth Brooks. Now if I were to go by what Ranker said, “Garth Brooks doesn’t have his music on Spotify. He’s also said he thinks YouTube is “The Devil.” I would think that Garth was just a backwards thinking idiot. But since Ranker proved itself wrong about everything else it published, I did a little digging. Turns out Garth started his own streaming service called GhostTunes, which he eventually sold to Amazon. So I expect as a result Garth is exclusive to Amazon. Garth, it turns out, is smarter than the average bear.

I am sorry. What does any of this have to do with Neil Young?

Neil Young is viewing Spotify as a publisher. I view it as more of a giant library. Now the reason Neil’s point of view has some weight is that Spotify did pay and handsome sum for the exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast. I view this as a mistake by the company. (Not as big a mistake as the money they threw at Megan and Harry, mind you. At least Rogan actually works for his supper.) It gives credence to Neil Young’s view and the money would have been better spent getting the soundtrack albums for Airplane, Conan the Barbarian, and Scarface back on the service.

So while I disagree with Neil Young’s actions and reasoning, I certainly can see his point of view.

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