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Neil Young performs on stage in Quebec City during 2018 Festival d'Ete.ALICE CHICHE/AFP/Getty Images

In a move that sent shock waves through the music industry, streaming giant Spotify SPOT-N removed Neil Young’s songs from its platform at the request of Young’s label, Warner Music/Reprise Records. The iconic Canadian rocker had posted an open letter to his management and his record label asking that his music be scrubbed from Spotify if it continued to carry the controversial podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

It is Young’s contention that through the popular podcast (which is available exclusively on Spotify), comedian Rogan was spreading “fake information” about vaccines. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately today that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote in a since deleted post on his Neil Young Archives website. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Spotify chose Rogan over Young, saying they “regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

Except for a few scattered tracks, Young’s music is no longer available on the world’s most widely used streaming service. The move prompted many questions about music ownership, streaming services, licensing rights and royalties.

Whose call was it to pull Young music’s from Spotify?

Ultimately it was the decision of Young’s record label, Warner Music/Reprise Records, the licensor to Spotify. While Young could not unilaterally pull his music from the platform, a record label would normally work hand-in-hand with an artist of Young’s legacy stature and acquiesce to their requests.

Who is out revenue?

Royalty payments attached to streaming songs are typically split between the artist and the record label and, to a lesser extent, the owner of the publishing rights to the music.

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While most of Neil Young's music has been pulled from Spotify at his request, scattered tracks from compilations and soundtracks not released through his record label, Warner/Reprise, still exist on the site.Spotify

Does it matter that Young recently sold half his publishing rights?

Not much. Last year, Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd. announced it had acquired a 50-per-cent stake in Young’s songwriting catalog. It is speculated the deal was worth as much as US$50-million. While Hipgnosis will lose its portion of the streaming royalties from Spotify, publishers do not control the actual sound recordings as a rule.

Why is some of Young’s music still on Spotify?

A few Young songs remain on the platform on various compilations and soundtracks that weren’t released through Warner Music. Examples included Young’s live versions of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues and All Along the Watchtower from Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, and the original studio versions of Heart of Gold and Harvest Moon on the soundtrack to the 2010 film Eat Pray Love. Also, covers of Young’s material, such as the Cowboy Junkies’ version of Powderfinger, remain on Spotify.

Is Young’s music even popular on Spotify?

According to Spotify, Young has 6,154,216 monthly listeners on the service. To put that in perspective, Drake has 53,495,360 monthly listeners and Joni Mitchell has 3,732,448. There’s a perception that streaming services are mostly used by younger listeners, but 19 per cent of the user base is aged 55 or over, compared with 26 per cent under age 24, according to Spotify.

Where can Young’s music be streamed now?

Young’s recordings will be available on similar platforms, such as Amazon Music and Apple Music. In a tweet yesterday, Apple proclaimed itself the “home of Neil Young.” Yesterday, SiriusXM Satellite Radio announced it would revive its Neil Young Radio channel for a limited time. And for a subscription fee, all of Young’s music can be streamed at Young’s own site, Neil Young Archives.

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