#BoycottSpotify: Artist Charlee Remitz on the Hidden Privileges of Cancel Culture
Check your privileges! Many musicians like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are blacklisting Spotify due to the recent Joe Rogan controversy. Here’s why this is not an accessible option for everyone...
‘There is no winning’ - These are the words Chrissy Tiegen after being cancelled over accusations of cyberbullying.
The term cancel culture has deeply influenced how gen-z navigate their online lives in a new era of digital activism, where celebrities and influencers are under a constant critical lens with the intention of upholding ethical behaviour.
However, the pitchforks have since turned from individuals to companies in the hopes of creating moral righteousness in the corporate world.
Joe Rogan’s Spotify Scandal
Spotify artist Charlee Remitz believes, ‘The responsibility to create a better, moral environment lies solely with the companies’. This is after Spotify came under fire in February when an episode of Spotify podcast ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ was found to be spreading COVID misinformation.
In this episode Rogan was accused of promoting wild conspiracy theories, including that hospitals have a financial incentive to incorrectly label causes of death as COVID-19 related.
Tweets from Dr Graham Walker (@grahamwalker)
This scandal led musician India Arie, who has since deleted her music from Spotify, to dig up old videos of Rogan using racial slurs and post them on her Instagram stories entitled ‘Boycott Spotify’. She encouraged others to do the same stating ‘What if we all leave? Then we can start having a conversation’. Spotify also suffered backlash from big names such as Neil Young, Roxane Gay and Joni Mitchell who have all removed their content from the platform.
Tweet from Roxane Gay (@rgay)
To Boycott or Not To Boycott?
Whilst this is a viable option for well-known artists, boycotting the platform is not an option for everyone. Smaller artist Charlee Remitz shares a differing view on this topic stating ‘I don’t agree with the boycott at all’. Charlee has over 2,400 monthly listens on Spotify and writes socially conscious music in the hopes of being on ‘the right side of history’.
Being a smaller artist on the platform, Charlee claims ‘I would never delete my music from Spotify, that’s definitely a privilege’.
‘Spotify has made my music really accessible, a lot of my fans have found me through Spotify. Deleting my music from Spotify would really negatively impact my exposure, and exposure is what brings you opportunities’.
Image Taken from Charlie Remitz’s Instagram (@charleeremitz)
Netflix faced a similar controversy in October when the streaming service refused to remove Dave Chapelle’s comedy special, which included transphobic jokes, from the platform. Many abandoned the platform with the hashtag #BoycottNetflix, including users and Dear White People producer Jaclyn Moore, however the special remains on the site.
Check your Privileges
Whilst it is so important that we have public figures like Neil Young, India Arie and Jaclyn Moore who are willing to stand up for their beliefs; it is also significant to acknowledge the societal ignorance many of us have for our privileges.
Like the famous and loaded Love Island star, Molly Mae, stating ‘...we all have the same 24 hours in a day’ or literal billionaire Kim K telling women to ‘...get your ass up and work’. We obviously need an awakening to our privileges and consider others’ financial situations.
Image Taken from Twitter (@Emilia_rxchael)
Hannah Yelin, Senior Lecturer in Media and Culture, observes that ‘Today people are reluctant to engage with their privileges or the ideology that they are unfairly benefitted in any way. We cannot tackle social inequality if we aren’t honest about our own positionality in a hierarchical society.’
This is something that needs to be considered before we boycott platforms or encourage others to do so. Hannah states ‘Whilst boycotting is an incredibly important part of being a conscious consumer, it puts immense pressure on the individual’.
This is true of the recent #DisneyWalkout that is currently taking place, where employees are striking in protest of donations made by Disney to the Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida.
Image Taken from Jennifer Heddle’s (Senior Editor at LucasFilm) Twitter (@jenheddle)
Boycotting these platforms is ‘a very important and powerful part of being a conscious consumer’ says Hannah.
However, boycotting can also mean boycotting the employees and their work too. As Charlee argues ‘‘Here's the thing, too. You look at Weinstein, when you boycott his movies you're also boycotting the costume designers, the set designers, the cameramen, you're boycotting so many little jobs here and there. It feels like a privilege for sure.’
Resolution = Regulation
This surge of consumers logging off of corporations such as Spotify, Netflix and Disney emphasises how our biggest companies are corrupt and flawed. At a crossroads between profit maximisation or ethical righteousness, these companies choose money over morality.
Hannah Yelin states ‘the lack of regulation within these powerful giants is always for the benefit of the overarching company and always at the expense of the users’.
When asked what she would like to see from these companies, Charlee states ‘Platforms like Spotify have fallen under the guise of money’, she further suggests ‘..they should spend a greater amount of time going through their content and putting trigger warnings where necessary’.
In order to create real change Hannah Yelin offers that ‘Boycott culture can temporarily be effective but it will not tackle systemic problems… the problem with online platforms that aid the gig economy is that it is a lot more user generated, which means there are less gatekeepers. This can lead to exploitation and spaces where hate-speech can flourish as we have seen with Netflix and Spotify.’
How Can I Show Allyship Without Boycotting?
So what should you do if you agree with the sentiment behind anti-hate speech but aren’t in a position to give up your subscriptions or quit your job?
In a capitalist society, financial stability is survival. People should not unwillingly risk this for their moral conscience. Hannah Yelin states that ‘If you leave that job someone else will simply take it’.
Simply supporting the causes you believe in, whether this is donating or raising awareness, as well as supporting those who engage in boycotting is as much allyship as anything else.