OOPS! I Did It Again
Sweetheart Pubstack #42
We’re Rachel Hurley and Frank Keith IV, co-owners of the Sweetheart Pub. We’re music industry veterans with over 30 years of combined experience in the music business, having worked in licensing, talent buying/booking, label management, tour management, and more. Once a week, we’ll publish a new edition of this newsletter, where we’ll share some philosophy and actionable advice on all facets of the music industry.
We’ve been putting together a weekly playlist — adding seven songs every Friday (just enough to keep your attention) — check out The Sweet Spot to hear what we’ve been listening to.
What we’re thinking about this week…
A lot has happened in the past week concerning the Neil Young / Joe Rogan / Spotify situation, so let’s talk about it.
If you read my essay on Spotify from a few weeks ago, you know that I was not impressed with Neil Young’s move to force Spotify to remove Joe Rogan. Quite a few people accused me of not getting the issue or being wrong when I said that in the end what he did was lacking imagination.
I received a lot of comments pointing out that other high profile artists joined him in taking their music down, and even more chimed in to point out that although Spotify did not remove Rogan from their platform, they did take down 70 of his podcast episodes. I realize that to a lot of people, this constitutes a win.
But was it?
When Young originally made his stand, I assumed that the reason why he censured Rogan was because his attitude and statements about vaccines were detrimental to those that listened to his podcast. I thought the purpose was to correct misinformation and help save lives.
But that’s not really what anyone seems to be thinking about. That thread was lost in the noise of communal outrage, which mainly called for Rogan to receive punishment for his actions, as if that punishment would somehow solve the problem that instigated the entire situation.
Over a decade ago, I lived with a man who had a pretty bad drug problem. While we were together, I convinced him to go to rehab twice. While he was there I was invited to meet with him and his therapist several times. My expectations were that I would go into the meeting, point out everything that he had done wrong, lament about all the ways his bad decisions had affected me, and have him beg for my forgiveness while the therapist backed me up and made him feel like shit.
Boy, was I in for a surprise, because that’s not what happened at all.
The therapist was very much on his side. Not in the sense that she approved of his actions, but in terms of explaining to me that shaming and punishing a person NEVER works in the long run. They may clean up their act just enough to avoid criticism, but in the end they would go back to their prior patterns because they didn’t choose anything for themselves. She said that the more I berated him, the harder it would be for him to see things my way. I would never get resolution without focusing on what I wanted him to do in the future, rather than holding on to the need for him to pay for his past misdeeds. What was more important to me? To get him on the right track, or for him to suffer?
This is the exact same scenario we currently find ourselves in when it comes to our collective political and ideological divisions around the world. It’s more important to us to “own” each other and flex our power than to leave room for compromise or nuance.
Even though I feel like I learned that lesson back then, I still struggle with wanting to disprove people that I disagree with, wanting to put them in their place through ridicule. However, when I feel that urge now, I am more likely to ask myself: is winning this battle really going to help me win the war? What is the outcome I want? If it’s just to hurt the other person I disagree with, well, that’s not really the person I want to be.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” — Nelson Mandela
When Spotify did not adhere to Young’s request, this week he took things a step further and called for employees at Spotify to quit their jobs.
Neil Young urges Spotify workers to quit as Trump tells Joe Rogan to 'stop apologizing’
Well, who do you think will step in to take those jobs? Maybe more right-leaning people? Not sure how that solves the problem.
That’s why my take is: If Young set out to speak up in order to protect people - well, nothing he did really moved the needle in that regard.
He could have asked Spotify to run more COVID PSA’s across the platform in place of ads, targeting not just Rogan’s audience. He could have spoken to Rogan directly and expressed his concern, asked to be a guest on the show and voiced how he felt that what Rogan was doing was hurting people. He could have asked Spotify to donate money to vaccinating at-risk communities. He could have taken the money he gave up by leaving Spotify and donated it to the COVID charity of his choice. Nothing he did do was likely to change the minds of Rogan’s audience who are already anti-vax, but this could have been a jumping off point to help those that can be helped.
If I spent an hour thinking about it, I’m sure I could come up with a dozen scenarios that would have had a better result than him grabbing his toys in a huff and bailing.
You might have seen David Crosby tweet that he was trying to reach out to Taylor Swift, in what I assume was a bid to ask her to be part of the revolt.
But what would Taylor Swift accomplish by removing her music from Spotify other than hurting her fans? It didn’t even take a week for Rogan to be offered the same deal from a right wing outlet to come use their platform.
By forcing Joe Rogan and his listeners out of the community, you lose access to them and that doesn't solve the problem of clearing up misinformation.
We could go back and forth all day about what Young was and wasn’t able to accomplish and if the end justified the means. Was it good that Rogan had to answer for his comments? Yes. Was it good that Spotify removed episodes of his show that were offensive? Yes. Is it good that Spotify committed to more warnings about content? Yes. Is it good that they have committed to spending more money to launch more diverse voices? Yes.
I never thought that Young was wrong to speak out, I just thought he missed a lot of opportunities to correct the situation that he was upset about. Did some positive outcomes result from his stance? Only time will tell.
I do think Rogan was embarrassed to the point that he will hopefully be more fastidious in his content. Maybe that outcome was the most anyone could hope for. In that case, I understand how some people see it as a win.
However, in my opinion, for now, it’s simply a draw.
Now, do I have more to say about the issue of Spotify and their payments to musicians?
But in the interest of attention spans, we’ll wrap here for today.
SFGATE columnist Drew Magary on Spotify's assumption that every storm will pass, including the Joe Rogan saga
The coronavirus misinformation on Joe Rogan’s show, explained
Joe Rogan should “step the fuck up” like Insane Clown Posse, says Steve Albini
For Joe Rogan’s Would-Be Cancelers, the Censorship Is Beside the Point
TikTok of the Week
Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Playlist Pitchers When They Say You Don’t Need PR
Just for Fun
What is the Difference Between Covering, Sampling, and Interpolation in Music?
We had a consultation with a client this week who is trying to build their following on social media. We shared with them all of our tips and tricks to build an engaged audience. After the consult, they emailed us asking:
Can you weigh in on recording a new album...is it even worth doing?? Or is it better to just release singles informally after I've built up my social media following as per your advice...I have a handful of higher profile shows lined up this summer and it seems like it would be good to have some new music available...it's just so hard to make a big push if there's not going to be a straightforward financial benefit!
I would wait on releasing an album and just focus on building your audience. In the best case scenario, you'll be able to get people to go back and listen to your previously-released music and when you build up more monthly listeners on streaming, then you'll know when it’s time to release something new. Hopefully, you'll find that people will start asking for new music.
Another idea is to remaster your first album or create a deluxe edition and re-release it. Or pick your BEST FIVE songs and re-release them as an EP, with maybe one new song.
Why spend more money on making a new album when a lot of people have not heard the one you already have?
Have your own question you’d like us to answer?
Music Rookie Podcast
Last week we launched Season 2 of the Music Rookie podcast, featuring an interview with Daniel Kohn who is the editor at SPIN Magazine.
If this is your first time joining us — we talk to industry insiders and ask them to give us their best tips to help musicians navigate the music biz. In past shows we’ve talked to booking agents, sync agents, manageress, entertainment lawyers, editors, radio programmers, distributors, music supervisors, and more, with all sharing their vast knowledge to help musicians just starting out — or veterans who want to keep up with this ever-changing industry.
In this conversation, you’ll hear us talk about Daniel’s journey as a music journalist, what he looks for in a story, and his vision for SPIN now that it is under new ownership.
You can listen via your preferred podcast service.
Former Bloodshot Records Radio Promoter talks radio and navigating “the biz”
Everything you’ve always wanted to know about sync licensing
Have a follow-up question for one of our guests? Got a tip? Did we (*gasp*) get something wrong? Our line is always open -- hit us up and if we use your question or response in a future newsletter, we’ll give you credit and link your socials.
As we often receive requests to work with artists who don’t have the budget to afford a full campaign, we’re launching an “Office Hours”-style consulting service where you can book us blocks of one-on-one time.
You can learn more here (scroll down past campaign details)
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