Spotify’s newly implemented policy on “hate content and hateful conduct” has polarized both music fans and industry experts.
The streaming service’s decision to distance itself from controversial artists—most notably XXXTentacion and R. Kelly—has raised many concerns, specifically in regards to the perceived double standards. If XXX and Kelly were being punished for their alleged abuse and sexual misconduct, some wondered if other acts, with similar allegations, would receive the same treatment on Spotify and other streaming services.
Music executive Steve Stoute addressed this concern during a recent appearance on Hot 97.
“When I seen XXXTentacion and R. Kelly get pulled off of playlists on Spotify, I thought, at that moment in time, ‘Where does this go?’” Stoute said (43:00), before questioning whether the decision was based on convenience or policy.
Co-host Laura Stylez responded: “It’s convenient. All the way.”
“That’s the problem,” Stoute said. “[…] It’s actually unfortunate that Spotify is now the guy standing in front of all this, when other streaming services have followed suit. Don’t we always separate the art from the artist? Haven’t we always done that? So, if you’re going to make it a policy, then I have to start going through the list [of other controversial artists]. And now it’s not convenient, because now we gotta be like, ‘How about this: We’re fucking not playing Michael Jackson.’”
Stoute continued: “I don’t fuck with R. Kelly. I’ve known him for many, many years. He’s not a great guy, and I’m not defending him. I’m defending the point. I’m defending what I believe is right. You gotta separate the art from the artist.”
Though XXX’s and Kelly’s music is still available to stream on Spotify, it has since been pulled from the service’s editorial content, including all official playlists. The move is said to have already impacted XXX’s pockets, as his latest track “SAD!” was pulled from the Rap Caviar playlist, resulting in a 17 percent decrease in streams. According to Billboard, the decline could cost the Florida rapper up to $60,000 in revenue within a year.
Shortly after Spotify announced its new policy, XXX’s team sent the New York Times a long list of alleged violent musicians, with the question: “Will Spotify remove all the artists listed below from playlists?"
“I’ve seen that list. I mean, 2Pac got convicted of rape. You gotta pull him down,” Stoute said. “[…] Let’s go one step further: Do we not play Kobe Bryant highlights on ESPN? Do we not cover Mike Tyson? Is it policy or is it convenient? That’s the problem in all of this […] I understand the movements. And, believe me, I am not condoning anything these guys did or accused of. That’s wrong. But when you have media companies, like Spotify or Apple or whoever it is, being the judge and the jury? […] They're being selective because their policy is not really a policy.”
You can watch the full interview above.