Spotify to add content advisory when podcasts mention Covid as more musicians yank songs from platform

In this March 15, 2016 file photo, Bruce Springsteen, center, performs with Nils Lofgren, left, and Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band during their concert at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Springsteen’s latest album, “Letter To You” will be released on Oct. 23.

Chris Pizzello | AP

Audio streaming giant Spotify said Sunday it will add content advisories to any material mentioning Covid-19, and direct its users to public health sites for more information.

Spotify is facing backlash for its decision to continue to air the popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” despite concerns that it is spreading Covid misinformation. Host Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist who has become well-known among anti-vaccine Americans. Malone has been banned from Twitter.

On Saturday, guitarist Nils Lofgren, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, became the latest musician to pull songs from Spotify to protest the streaming service carrying Rogan’s podcast.

Posted to its website, the statement from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that the streaming service includes creators with diverse opinions, including those “of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly.” He did not mention Rogan by name.

“We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users,” Ek said. “In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”

Ek said the company plans to add a content advisory on any podcast episode that mentions Covid-19. It will direct listeners to a hub of information from public health experts, scientists and physicians, he said. He also published the platform’s rules.

Neil Young began the boycott of Spotify, insisting that the company remove his music. Joni Mitchell said Friday that she would join the protest and get her music pulled as well.

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell said Friday in a message posted on her website. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

In a statement on Saturday, Lofgren urged others to stand with “hundreds of health care professionals, scientists, doctors and nurses in calling out Spotify for promoting lies and misinformation that are hurting and killing people.”

Lofgren said the last 27 years of his music has already been taken off Spotify and he is working with music labels to get the earlier songs removed.

Bruce Springsteen (L) and Nils Lofgren with the E Street Band perform at Veterans Park in celebration of the 105th anniversary of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin August 30, 2008.

Allen Fredrickson | Reuters

Best-selling author Brene Brown said Saturday on Twitter that she would “not be releasing any podcasts until further notice.” She’s behind the popular podcasts “Unlocking Us” and “Dare to Lead.”

CNBC could not immediately reach Brown for comment about the decision.

Separately, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have expressed concerns to Spotify over Covid misinformation, but said they will continue to work with the company, according to a Reuters report on Sunday. The report cited a spokesperson for Archewell, the couple’s foundation. The couple signed an exclusive streaming deal with Spotify in 2020.

Spotify’s shares closed Friday at $172.98, up about 1%. Shares have fallen about 26% so far this year. The company’s stock hit a 52-week low of $164.41 on Friday amid market turbulence and the Spotify controversy.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.