Spotify, the most popular music streaming service, recently stopped promoting R. Kelly’s music along with rapper XXXTentacion from its playlists as part of its new policy on hateful content and conduct. Now it seems that Spotify is admitting it may have been wrong.
According to a Spotify spokesperson the R&B balladeer’s music will remain on Spotify but the service will not actively promote it. The objective of the policy is to remove anything that “expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”
According to Spotify bad behavior by an artist can impact the decisions they make. Jonathan Prince, Vice-President of Content and Marketplace Policy will head a committee that will decide what behavior is considered bad enough to exclude an artists from promotion.
The committee focused on R.Kelly because of child pornography charges from 2008, multiple allegations of sexual abuse and accusations of coercion and holding women in a so-called sex “cult.” Already this year the singer has been hit with sexual abuse allegations from four additional women. While the popular singer has not been charged with a crime media coverage of the allegations against him have not gone away. Last month the #MuteRKelly campaign began an effort to hold the singer accountable and became a part of the larger #TimesUp effort to fight sexual harassment across several industries. Kelly has blamed the accusations on the media saying it is an attempt to “distort my character” and has denied holding women in a “cult.”
In addition to Spotify Pandora has also downgraded R.Kelly’s music. The streaming service said in a statement that, “Pandora’s policy is to not actively promote artists with certain demonstrable behavioral, ethical or criminal issues. We approach each of these scenarios on a case-by-case basis to ensure we address components true to Pandora’s principles while not overreaching and avoiding censorship.” Apple Music has also been pulling R. Kelly’s material from its own featured playlists.
Spotify has now began to re-think it’s actions. Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek said Wednesday that the music-streaming service “screwed up” and could have done a better job informing the world about its playlist ban.
Ek spoke during an onstage interview at Recode’s Code Conference in Ranch Palos Verdes, CA. “I think we rolled this out wrong and could have done a better job communicating it. The goal for this was to make sure we didn’t have hate speech on the service. It was never about punishing one individual.” Ek went on to say, “What we wanted to be was just transparent. If you are talking about being KKK and doing that kind of stuff, I think it’s pretty obvious that we don’t want you on the service.”
Spotify’s action did not go unnoticed. Backlash came not only from Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar but reportedly sparked criticism among some of Spotify’s own employees.
R.Kelly was not the only artists affected by the new policy. Spotify also blocked the promotion of music by rapper XXXTentacion who was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman. Lamar, a vocal supporter of XXXTentacion, threatened to pull his music from Spotify in response to the policy.
Critics say that Spotify’s new policy is nearly impossible to enforce fairly. The conduct policy has proved to be especially onerous to hip-hop artists and executives, the best-selling genre in the U.S. music industry. Executives are questioning why the two acts singled out are black, while plenty of white men with histories of violence were not equally punished.
Breaking It Down
I, for one, applaud the action by Spotify. We have to ask ourselves a question as a society; what are our children learning and from who? We need to hold these people, popular artists and athletes, accountable for their behavior. We cannot on one hand applaud their music or athletic prowess and then allow them to behave in ways that give people the idea they are above the law or norms of acceptable behavior. You child will see this behavior and eventually mimic it. We already see it everyday. We need to send the message that if you act like an asshole then we will treat you like one. If we can cancel ‘Roseanne” we should be able to block the works of rappers and artists who are charged with crimes. Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty. right. But the bottom line is these people need to know our children are watching and following their style and actions. And if the artist or athlete is using drugs or beating up women what are children likely to think? We need to stop playing this game where we entertain the right to free expression as a license to make money and act like a jerk. No. Spotify and other streaming services and record labels should warn these artists that their behavior must meet certain standards or they can go back to peddling their CD’s on street corners. This isn’t censorship by any means. Spotify did not ban R.Kelly or XXXTentacion. The just stopped promoting their work. Its nothing new here. Professional sports franchises suspend, or cut players all the time for bad behavior off the field. Ask Ray Rice! Why can’t we do the same for the stage?