In what may be the first major win for the #MuteRKelly campaign, Spotify has announced today it will no longer promote or include any of R. Kelly's songs on their editorial or algorithmic playlists, which include Rap Caviar, Discover Weekly or New Music Friday. The move is part of the music streaming platform’s new hate content and hateful conduct policy, and stems from the staggering number of troubling accusations of abuse and sexual coercion against Kelly. Kelly’s music will, however, still be available on the platform.
"We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly," Spotify told Billboard in a statement. "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. 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."
Kelly has been accused of a litany of disturbing sexual acts for several years, some involving drugging underage women or training them as sex slaves, but more attention has been paid to his behavior as the #MeToo movement gains popularity and women feel more comfortable going public with their stories. Last year, Kelly was accused of being the head of an “abusive cult” that brainwashed and controlled “every aspect” of women’s lives, including “how they engage in sexual encounters.”
XXXTentacion's music has also received the same treatment.
"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,” Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s VP/Head of content and Marketplace policy, told Billboard. "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 responded to the news by providing 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.
Spotify worked with a number of worldwide advocacy groups—including The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, Muslim Advocates, GLAAD, and the International Network Against Cyber Hate, among others—in an effort to determine what can be classified as hate content. Considering Spotify is available in more than 50 countries worldwide, the platform will also pay attention to what may be considered offensive in different regions around the world.