PHILIPPINES - Former professional boxer, singer, and current Philippines Senator Manny Pacquiao has reportedly threatened to release more music on Spotify if podcast host Joe Rogan is removed from the popular music streaming platform over COVID-19 misinformation.
His announcement comes after reports of artists Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removing their music from Spotify in protest over “Joe Rogan Experience” episodes that have featured controversial statements and guests that have downplayed the seriousness of the virus and COVID-19 vaccinations, even after Rogan contracted COVID-19 himself.
Pacquiao, who released his last album on Spotify in 2011, backed Rogan in an interview over the weekend.
“I don’t care what the other extremely successful, storied, super-talented, artists are doing, I will stand with Joe,” the longtime fighter said. “Everybody has the right to free speech. If he [Rogan] is pulled off Spotify, I will release another album, one that speaks from the heart and for freedom of speech, no matter what the cost. I can think of nobody better than myself to take that sword and be the voice of real people."
Despite the outrage against Rogan, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to free speech, including speech that may be proven inaccurate or potentially dangerous.
That right is what has Pacquiao ready to get back in the music studio if needed.
“After my last album’s incredibly wild success and virility, I took a break to work in politics,” Pacquiao said. “It's because of that I am even more driven to fight for those who don’t have a voice like Joe. I’ve been a fighter all of my life, and I’ll continue to fight with my music if necessary.”
That overlap has caused a major headache the last week or so for the fast-growing music app, which is paying Rogan $100 million for exclusive streaming rights.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek released a statement Sunday, conceding that the company hasn’t “been transparent around the policies that guide our content more broadly” yet made no mention of any plans to remove Rogan from the platform, despite artists like Young and Mitchell leaving.
At the end of the day, it appears Pacquiao's threat was the only jab Spotify needed to make some changes.
“If you thought the global pandemic couldn’t get any worse, think about a world with another Pacquiao album,” a Spotify executive who wished to remain anonymous said. “Yeah, we fucked up with Joe, and we’ll add the disclaimers or whatever, but you want to talk about a real danger to society, my God. We're not going to be the ones responsible for that.”
As of writing, it appears, for now, Rogan’s job, and the rest of the world’s ears, are safe.
End of the Bench will have more as this story develops.