With the recent controversy between Neil Young, Spotify and Joe Rogan just beginning to simmer down, many are questioning what could have propelled the aging musician to be willing to dump about 20% of his revenue.
Young had offered an ultimatum to Spotify last week: “Rogan or Young. Not both.” Young complained that Joe Rogan, who hosts the Joe Rogan Experience, is spreading “COVID-19 misinformation”. Young was apparently referring to episodes in which Rogan hosted top medical experts who challenged the mainstream COVID-19 narrative.
In response to the ultimatum, Spotify pulled Young’s music off its platform.
Young’s publishing revenue from Spotify last year amounted to $308,000, according to Billboard, which was about 19% of his revenue.
No matter how personal one might take COVID-19, it’s still hard to believe it’s worth losing $300,000 over.
That’s why people have been looking more closely at what might be driving Neil Young to take such a stance, and there is a clue.
It begins with a man named Jeff Kindler.
Kindler is an accomplished executive, having served in senior roles at such companies as General Electric and McDonald’s. In August 2020, it was announced that Kindler had begun working as a “senior advisor” to one of the world’s largest investment firms, Blackstone.
Then in 2021, Blackstone forged a partnership with a music-centered investment fund, Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, in which Blackstone bought $1 billion-worth of rights to songs.
By that time, Higpnosis owned 50% of Neil Young. Specifically, Hipgnosis owns 50% of the copyright and income interests of Young's entire 1,180-song back catalogue.
In 2022, Neil Young complained that the world’s biggest podcaster is not speaking nicely about the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is perhaps Pfizer’s biggest product to date, with a forecast of about $65 billion in sales for 2021 and 2022, which is about 80% of Pfizer’s entire revenue.
None of the above events seem to be related, until we consider that Jeff Kindler was the previous Chairman and CEO of Pfizer.
Then, it becomes a matter of asking the right question. For example, one might ask why Blackstone hired Pfizer’s former CEO as a senior advisor? Or why did Blackstone decide to partner with Hipgnosis, which owned 50% of Neil Young? Why did Neil Young sell 50% of his content to Hipgnosis?
And finally, why was Neil Young willing to lose $300,000 over what some doctors said about a vaccine that they helped make in the first place?