Spotify removed R. Kelly’s music from its playlists last week, but that hasn’t seemed to have negatively affected the singer’s streaming numbers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s quite the contrary, rather, as his Nielsen Music numbers have done nothing but grow steadily for the past two years.
Nielsen Music numbers, of course, are based on an amalgamation of listener engagement through Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and various other streaming services. Before Spotify announced its new policy and stated it was removing Kelly’s music from its prearranged playlists on May 10, the singer averaged 6,584,000 weekly streams for the year. From May 10-16, however, he averaged 6,676,000—which is nearly a hundred thousand additional streams, after the controversy in question.
If you recall, the decision to pull Kelly’s music from Spotify’s prearranged playlists came in the wake of increased and renewed attention toward his alleged sexual misconduct—which ranged from grooming young girls to become his sexual pets to running a sex dungeon in his basement—after which the streaming service created a new hate content and conduct policy, which Kelly’s alleged behavior had violated.
As for the past two years, overall, Kelly’s music has seen a substantial increase in streaming. The singer averaged 4,709,000 weekly streams in 2016 and 5,666,000 weekly streams in 2017, and he's currently averaging 6,674,000 weekly streams. It seems that listeners are either aware of the allegations and simply prioritize the music, or haven’t heard about the controversial allegations to begin with.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director for women’s advocacy group Ultraviolet—who is also demanding Spotify remove Eminem, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other artists from its playlists—is adamant that R. Kelly’s current streaming numbers don’t accurately indicate how people really feel about the man behind the music.
“To argue that these numbers reflect the common consensus about whether people want to be paying for his music and helping him profit off the type of music he creates and the type of person he is, I think it’s very early in the game to suggest that,” she said.
Ultimately, it seems that only time will tell how listeners really feel about this issue—if R. Kelly’s streaming numbers continue to rise, remain steady, or at least don’t substantially drop, it’ll be fairly clear that people care more about the music than they do the artist. While this poses some serious ethical questions, they’re certainly not new—Roman Polanski, for example, was only removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences three weeks ago, after it was clear for over 40 years that he had drugged and raped an underage girl. In the age of #MeToo, however, R. Kelly may not have that long. Stay tuned.