Spotify Removes R. Kelly & XXXTentacion From Its Playlists

Expect lots of changes in the future.

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Spotify unveiled a new hate content and hateful conduct policy today, May 10. Under a new public policy, Spotify will not tolerate content 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.”

Included in these sanctions were R. Kelly and XXXTentacion‘s music, which were removed from Spotify’s editorial or algorithmic playlists on its service. XXXTentacion’s “SAD!” was No. 8 on Spotify’s flagship RapCaviar playlist, but Billboard confirmed that the song was removed. However, their music will still be available to stream on the platform.

In a statement released earlier today announcing the new policy and the subsequent removal of R. Kelly’s music, Spotify stressed that although his music will remain on the platform, the streaming company will no longer actively promote it. “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values,” the company said. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s VP/Head of Content and Marketplace Policy, told Billboard, “When we look at promotion, we look at issues around hateful conduct, where you have an artist or another creator who has done something off-platform that is so particularly out of line with our values, egregious, in a way that it becomes something that we don’t want to associate ourselves with.” He added, “So we’ve decided that in some circumstances, we may choose to not work with that artist or their content in the same way—to not program it, to not playlist it, to not do artist marketing campaigns with that artist.”

R. Kelly’s management team released the following statement to BuzzFeed News:

We appreciate Spotify for continuing to make R. Kelly’s songs accessible to millions of people, although it will stop listing his songs on its official playlists.

Spotify is adopting a new “Hate Content & Hateful Conduct” policy. R. Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire.

Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women. He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff. He never has been convicted of a crime, nor does he have any pending criminal charges against him.

Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit. It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers.

Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature.

Mr. Kelly falls into none of these categories, and it is unfortunate and shortsighted that Spotify fails to recognize this.

XXXTentacion’s reps have also responded to the new ruling, via Pitchfork: “Will Spotify remove all the artists listed below from playlists?” The list includes artists who have faced allegations (e.g., Real Estate, whose former member Matt Mondanile was accused of repeated sexual misconduct), some who have been charged with crimes (e.g., 6ix9ine, who pleaded guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance), and others who have had criminal charges/investigations dismissed (e.g., Trey Songz and Seal). In addition, the list includes older and deceased artists (like Ozzy Osbourne and David Bowie). See The New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli screenshot of the full rebuttal.

On May 4, eight women — four of whom were new accusers — spoke out about R. Kelly, raising allegations of sexual abuse. XXXTentacion has also been fighting domestic violence charges since October of 2016.

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