Spotify removes R. Kelly from automated playlists, announces new hate content policy
Spotify has removed R. Kelly's music from all of its curated playlists, days after The Washington Post published a feature detailing how many in the music industry turned a blind eye to allegations of sexual abuse of young women against the hit-making R&B singer.
His songs will no longer appear on any "Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly," the company told The Post in a statement Thursday. "His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it."
The company uses a number of different automated playlists to promote various artists, such as the custom, automatically curated Discovery Weekly and Your Daily Mix, along with larger public playlists. RapCaviar, one popular public playlist on which R. Kelly has previously appeared, boasts almost 9.5 million followers. Users do not have the option to block certain artists from these playlists, meaning any artist's music can conceivably pop on at any time.
Nearly 8.5 million people listen to Kelly's music on the platform each month, according to Spotify.
"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," a spokesperson for the service said, adding that "if 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."
The move coincides with Spotify's launch of a new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy, which is designed to promote the values of "openness, diversity, tolerance and respect."
"That's why we do not permit hate content on Spotify, and remove it whenever we find it," the policy stated. It defined hate content as that which "expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on" a number of characteristics, such as race, religion and sexual orientation.
To identity this content, the company "partnered with rights advocacy groups, including The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), GLAAD, Muslim Advocates, and the International Network Against Cyber Hate," according to the announcement.
Spotify has nixed music in the past due to ideology - such as when it removed neo-Nazi and white supremacist music from its service following last year's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Last week The Post published the accounts of six women who said they were in abusive relationships with Kelly, who has long been accused of sexual abuse of minors, which he has repeatedly denied.
The Post's Geoff Edgers wrote:
"For more than two decades, the recording industry turned a blind eye to Kelly's behavior as his career continued to thrive and he was afforded every luxury of a chart-topping superstar.
"A Washington Post investigation found that this disregard for the singer's alleged behavior played out on many levels, from the billionaire record executive who first signed the dynamic young vocalist in the early 1990s to the low-paid assistants who arranged flights, food and bathroom breaks for his traveling entourage of young women."
Kelly refused The Post's multiple requests for comment for that story.
His management team provided a statement that said he "has close friendships with a number of women who are strong, independent, happy, well cared for and free to come and go as they please. All of the women targeted by the current media onslaught are legal adults of sound mind and body, with their own free will."
The story brought the allegations against Kelly back into the spotlight, prompting a wave of condemnation and, in rare cases, support. Talk show host Wendy Williams, for example, seemed to defend Kelly by lamenting how he "can't read, he can't write and he can't add," and by scolding that parents "unleashed your daughters" on an older man, and that "15-year-old" girls "carry themselves like 22."
The Post's story follows a BuzzFeed piece from last July, which reported that the parents of one victim Kelly's alleged sexual abuse said the singer was "running an abusive 'cult' that's tearing families apart."
"Three former members of Kelly's inner circle - Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee - provided details supporting the parents' worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records," the report stated.
The allegations prompted Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye to launch a campaign called #MuteRKelly, which was aimed at eradicating Kelly's music from the airwaves and digital services and pressuring companies to cut ties with him, in late 2017. It picked up steam again last week, when the anti-sexual harassment initiative Time's Up also called for a boycott of Kelly's music
The news of Spotify's decision was generally met with praise on social media Thursday morning. Some, though, claimed the artist should be been seen separate from his art.
"I dont agree with all this mute @rkelly movement. Keep the music alive. Good music is good music. His personal life is separate from his music," one user wrote.
Others criticized the platform for not removing his music sooner.
As one tweeted, "I feel like streaming sites removing R Kelly content from their platforms is about a decade too late. Like, the damage has been done and the same information we have now we had then. So I get they don't wanna stand next to what comes with that but you don't get any kudos either."
Author information: Travis M. Andrews is a pop culture writer for The Washington Post.