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Neil Young’s $150 million payday means Young risked nothing in Spotify duel, while asking others to risk all

One of the defining characteristics of the liberal media in America was on full display when the pseudo-drama between Neil Young and Spotify played out this month, as Young left the streaming platform over “misinformation [1]” spread by Joe Rogan, whose podcast is hosted on the platform.  

While Young railed over the Rogan “misinformation,” he called on the employees of Spotify to quit their jobs, for budding creators to eschew the platform, and for Baby Boomers to move their money “away from the damage causers.”

“To the workers at SPOTIFY,” Young said, according to the music site Pitchfork [2], “I say Daniel Ek [CEO of Spotify] is your big problem – not Joe Rogan. Ek pulls the strings. Get out of that place before it eats up your soul.”  

There are several problems with Young’s declarations. 

With $11 billion in revenues [3], of which 70% is paid out to artists [4] (by contrast, NBA [5] and NFL players [6] just receive about 50% of revenues and no one has accused them of being underpaid) employees at Spotify didn’t realize that they had a problem to begin with. 

The nearly 900 reviews of the company at the employment site Glassdoor [7] are pretty good, with 93% approving of the CEO and 83% willing to recommend a friend to work there. 

“According to anonymously submitted Glassdoor reviews,” said the employment site, “Spotify employees rate their compensation and benefits as 4 out of 5,” which is just a tad shy of Apple’s rating [8].  

The other problem is that Young, 76, by virtue of selling a 50% share in his catalog of songs to investors (called securitization) for $150 million last year, has already monetized every last cent he will ever make off his music in his lifetime. 

Because what securitization essentially does is pay someone in advance, minus a discount, for revenues they will earn at a later date, whether those revenues come from the sale of automobiles, mortgage payments, or royalty streams of classic rock songs.   

Billboard estimates that Young will lose about $754,000 in revenue annually [9] from leaving Spotify, which seems like a lot. But it’s only 0.5% of the $150 million he was paid last year for selling nearly half of his music catalog. A risk-free one-year CD [10] with a guarantee pays twice that rate today.  

In fact, like Walmart and Amazon, Young and a few other artists figured out, through securitization, how to make the boom in streaming caused by the pandemic work for them. 

“The folk singer is the latest in a string of artists looking to capitalize on streaming,” said the Daily Beast about the Young deal [11], “and make money during a pandemic that’s put a halt to live performances.” 

So, with a $150 million retirement fund, people should remember: Neil Young doesn’t need Spotify anyhow [12].

Young, unlike the employees at Spotify and the emerging artists he asked to de-platform off of the streaming service, has already cashed in his chips. And one should always be wary of those who want to change the rules once they have made their money. 

Young appears, in this case, just like other pandemic prophets, media oligarchs, CNN hosts and grasping, woke politicians who have one set of rules that applies to him and another set of rules that applies to the rest of us.