While his songs will remain available to stream, the R&B singer will no longer appear in Spotify-curated playlists as part of new ‘hateful conduct’ policy
Music streaming service Spotify has removed all R Kelly songs from its own playlists, as pressure continues to build on the R&B star amid sexual assault allegations against him.
His songs can still be streamed on Spotify, and users can add them to their playlists, but they no longer feature in Spotify’s own mood-based playlists, nor their branded playlists like New Music Friday, #ThrowbackThursday, or their flagship R&B playlist, This is How We Do.
The move, first reported by Billboard, is part of a new content policy being rolled out by the company, which will no longer promote what they describe as “hateful conduct”.
“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 wrote in a statement. “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.” They cite “hatred or violence” based on “race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability” as being liable for policing on the service.
R Kelly has long been dogged by accusations of sexual abuse, paedophilia, creating child pornography, and, most recently, running a sex cult with a number of women being kept against their will. He has always denied any wrongdoing, having settled a number of claims out of court, and was found not guilty of the child sexual abuse charges in 2008.
In the wake of an arm of the Time’s Up movement campaigning for Kelly’s label and concert promoter to cut ties with him, and the numerous women who have made the cult allegations in recent months, Kelly’s management reacted with a statement that called the allegations “a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time” and an “attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture”.
Jonathan Prince, head of Spotify’s content and marketplace policy, elaborated on the company’s decision to Billboard. “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,” he said. He cited “hateful conduct” and “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” as being grounds for action. There is some precedent for the move – in 2017, a number of white supremacist songs were removed altogether from the service – but it marks a formalising of the company’s processes around hate speech and misconduct.
No other artists have yet been affected by the policy. Spotify has introduced a reporting system for hateful content, via three sets of monitors: the company itself, advocacy groups and Spotify users.
The move is another high-profile condemnation of Kelly. A campaign to have him dropped from a concert in Chicago last week was successful, and another protest, to prevent him playing in Greensboro, North Carolina on 11 May, continues to gather pace. Yesterday Kelly posted on Twitter that he would be going ahead with the latter concert, and that it was “a perfect #mothersdaygift for your Queens!”