Following last week’s removal of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from Spotify‘s “editorial or algorithmic playlists,” as part of the platform’s new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy, many voices have sprouted up in response to the controversial move.
To some, the move seems altruistic and honorable. In an age of conscious consumerism, media companies have not only the right, but a duty to uphold the values and beliefs that align with the people who make up the organization. This is the side that Spotify falls into alignment with, as Spotify’s VP/Head of Content, Jonathan Princetold, told Billboard in a statement:
“I think that, frankly, all of us have become increasingly aware of the responsibility that we have when we make recommendations about content, and particularly when we’re doing that in a way that may send signals to our audience about what we believe and what we value.”
On the other hand, proponents of the editorial decision find it contentious and problematic to single out specific artists while leaving others unscathed. In the case of R. Kelly, whose “After Party” tour was cancelled in late 2017 amid allegations that the artist was running a sex cult, a representative from Kelly’s camp told BuzzFeed News that he “supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement.” The rep alluded to the singling out of Kelly as unfair, considering the artist has never been charged with any of these crimes, adding,
“Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit,” the statement reads. “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.”
Now, a US-based women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet, has come forth to urge the music streaming giant to do the same with other artists accused of sexual assault and/or gender-based violence. In an open letter, UltraViolet executive director Shaunna Thomas pinpoints artists with a history of sexual abuse, including Chris Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nelly, Eminem, Don Henley of The Eagles, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and Ted Nugent, citing them as artists “who continue to profit from [Spotify’s] promotion.”
“Every time a famous individual continues to be glorified despite allegations of abuse, we wrongly perpetuate silence by showing survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence that there will be no consequences for abuse,” writes Thomas. “That has a cultural effect far beyond one individual artist.”
Spotify’s next moves are unknown. But, as many new voices continue sprouting new (and hopefully fruitful) conversations, it’s clear that the issue is a tiny microcosm of the identity-based movement in American culture and politics. At the very least, Spotify’s editorial choice has sparked some much-needed debate surrounding issues of sexual misconduct in the music industry, as well as the ongoing related issue of unequal gender representation.
H/T: Consequence of Sound
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