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Joe Rogan, Neil Young, Spotify, & You

Neil Young made headline news around the world at the end of January 2022 by pulling his music from Spotify in protest at Covid-19 related misinformation propagated by Spotify podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

Let’s look in more detail at what was needed to make this happen and what relevance it has for the music you use in your sports or fitness mix.

Music is owned by the recording artists and songwriters who create each track and song. These two ‘sides’ to music copyright – master rights and publishing rights – are treated separately, so for example other recording artists could, with the songwriters permission, do a different interpretation of a song (a “cover version”).

Each individual copyright owner can decide whether to permit a particular use of their music. Permission is granted for uses via license agreements, typically for financial remuneration – its how the copyright owners (artists and songwriters) make money from their work.

Record labels and music publishers are normally licensed to commercially exploit the master recordings and songwriting copyrights of the creators respectively.

The chain of ownership can get even longer as some songwriters, including Neil Young, have sold the future income from their songwriting royalties to third parties - in Neil Young's case, Hipgnosis Songs Fund. But that's not too relevant for this blog. (If you want to find out more, see our blog on this for more background).

So what did Neil Young do?

He is both recording artist and songwriter for his body of work. His record label is Warner Music. As is his right, Neil Young objected to his music sharing the same service (Spotify) as The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

He used his contract with Warner Music, via the license agreement Warner Music has with Spotify, to remove his music from Spotify. He didn’t bother with his music publishers, as just one copyright owner’s refusal of permission means the work cannot be used.

When you consider that a current hit song averages more than 9 writers, in general the granting and withholding of permission has the potential to be very tricky. Just one copyright owner, who may own even a very small share of the overall work, has the potential to withhold it completely for any particular use.

If there were more songwriters involved in the creation of Neil Young’s songs, or if Neil Young had band members who also owned parts of the master recording copyright, any one of them could have done the same thing as Neil Young with the songs - and the others (including Neil Young) couldn’t object.

How does this relate to your music mix?

It’s a very high-profile reminder that, as creators, the artists and songwriters have a legal right to withhold the use of their music and you need their permission for each and every use you make of it.

If you have a Spotify account and enjoy listening to your favorite artists on heavy rotation on there, that is the use for which the artists and songwriters have licensed their music to you, via Spotify (or whichever service you use).

You cannot therefore assume that, for example Taylor Swift, or her record label or music publishers, are happy for you to use her music in your sport or fitness routine without further payment. They are not.

When ClicknClear does deals with the major record labels and music publishers, there are usually a handful of artists and songwriters like Taylor - and Neil Young - who withhold their permission for us to grant licenses to you for performance sports and fitness routines. They just don’t want their music being used in that way, they are perfectly within their rights to have that opinion, and we all have to respect it.

So it is very important that to make sure you seek permission from all the artists and songwriters and license all the uses you make of their music.

  • It’s the law.

  • Using properly licensed music helps promote and grow your sport.

  • And it supports the creation of more music.

How to license music copyright

Copyright owners have the legal right to use, authorize the use of or prohibit the use of, a work, and to set the conditions for its use. Different specific uses (or “acts of exploitation”) of a work can be treated separately, meaning that the rightsholder can deal with each right (including using, transferring, licensing or selling the right) on an individual type-of-use basis.

How can you go about getting a license to music for your routine?

For standard uses of music, like listening at home for your personal enjoyment, and playing music in a public venue (“performing rights”), the rights are easy to obtain – they are taken care of by streaming services and collecting societies respectively. Spotify gets permission from each recording artist and songwriter to license you to listen to music in private, and collecting societies get the permission to license venues so you can hear it in shops, bars, and other public spaces.

For non-standard uses, like performance sports and fitness, a number of rights (such as adaptation and choreography) are needed that are closely guarded by the copyright owners as they are essentially interpretations of their work.

The rights needed for performance sports and fitness are typically:

The marching arts have a slightly expanded set of requirements as they are making a custom arrangement of the music and distributing sheet music.

It is a complicated process to identify the owners and gain each one’s permission.

This really is as complicated as it looks.

Fortunately ClicknClear is here to solve the problem.

We currently have around 500,000 tracks (and rapidly growing) available with permissions from the relevant recording artists and songwriters to grant licenses for all the rights shown above, at low pre-agreed fees.

In a similar way to a streaming service or collecting society do for the rights they deal with, we make the complicated process of getting the full set of music rights you need for sports and fitness routines simple: Click and Clear :)

Please use the following links to see more detail on music copyright and the rights needed by performance sports.

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