Ex-Mumford & Sons member Winston Marshall calls Spotify controversy “Soviet-style censorship”

"Something resembling a bottom-up authoritarianism has become the norm"

Former Mumford & Sons member Winston Marshall has written a piece for Bari Weiss’ Substack criticising artists taking action against Spotify.

In the essay entitled ‘When Artists Become the Censors’, Marshall takes aim at those he believes are threatening free speech, including Neil Young, who recently pulled his music from Spotify.

On January 24, Young published an open letter – which has since been deleted – expressing his feelings about content like the Joe Rogan Experience podcast “spreading false information about vaccines”. This sparked a wider protest, with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Crazy Horse member Nils Lofgren following suit.


“Something resembling a bottom-up authoritarianism has become the norm,” Marshall writes in the essay. “Or perhaps one could call it lateral censorship. It’s artists shutting down other artists—or trying to.”

Winston Marshall goes on to note: “Spotify is a private company; they’re under no obligation to platform anybody. So while this campaign doesn’t breach Rogan’s First Amendment rights, it is a clear stand against the cultural norm of free speech.”

Marshall’s argument then turns to those he believes are unfairly criticised for their views: “Those brave enough to peep over the parapet—think of Kanye on Trump or J.K. Rowling on the trans debate—are attacked viciously.”

Critiquing left-leaning artists throughout and the supposed censorship of those on the other side of the debate, he concludes the essay by commenting: “Maybe a return to Soviet-style censorship is well on its way. But this time supported by artists in favor of orthodox establishment thought.”

The banjo player and guitarist quit the group last summer after controversy was raised over a since-deleted tweet in which he praised right-wing author Andy Ngo.


After announcing his departure from Mumford & Sons, the musician said in a BBC Radio 4 interview that his former bandmates had been targeted by “internet mobs”, while he himself had received “a lot of very horrible negativity” over his tweet.

In the published essay, Marshall writes about the situation: “I could have stayed in the band. But it would’ve meant self-censorship. Or lying. So I left.”

In other news, Spotify has reportedly removed 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience that see the comedian using racist slurs.

Following the resurfaced clips, Rogan took to Instagram to apologise. “There’s been a lot of shit from the old episodes of the podcast that I wish I hadn’t said, or had said differently. This is my take on the worst of it,” he wrote in the caption for the 6-minute video.

“I would never want to offend someone for entertainment for something as stupid as racism. If anything, perhaps this can be a teachable moment for anyone who doesn’t realise how offensive that word can be coming out of a white person’s mouth. My sincerest apologies, it makes me sick just watching that video.”