Sexual harassment and assault

Spotify mutes R. Kelly over sex abuse accusations, removing his music from its playlists

The singer’s music will still be available on the streaming service, but will not be promoted

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 9:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 10:47am

Spotify is removing R&B star R. Kelly’s music from its playlists and recommendations, reflecting its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct.

“We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, but we want our editorial decisions – what we choose to programme – to reflect our values,” a Spotify spokesman said on Thursday.

The music streaming service said his music will still be on the platform, but it will not actively promote it. 

Reuters could not immediately reach the singer, who has denied allegations of sexual misconduct, but his management issued a statement attacking the move.

“R. Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire,” the statement said.

“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’s new policy defines hateful conduct as “something that is especially harmful or hateful,” such as violence against children and sexual violence.

It’s another blow for the superstar, who has been battling allegations that he has sexually abused women for decades.

While Kelly has denied the allegations and was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography charges, recent attention and a #MuteRKelly campaign has put the singer, songwriter and producer under more scrutiny.

He was recently dropped from a concert in his hometown of Chicago, and there is pressure to cancel a Friday concert in Greensboro, North Carolina.

In a statement, the founders of the #MuteRKelly movement applauded Spotify’s move.

“It is important that those who market the work of problematic entertainers stand, in the end, with their company’s collective values,” it read. “We find this decision by Spotify a victory, and is just another step in our mission to Mute. R. Kelly.”

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The Spotify policy will apply to songs R. Kelly performs on as a solo artist or with other artists, like Same Girl, which he wrote for Usher. But songs he wrote for other acts, such as Michael Jackson, will not be affected.

Kelly’s management said while they are gratified that Spotify didn’t completely remove him, the streaming service is acting on “false and unproven accusations” and succumbing to social media pressure.

They also noted that the platform still promotes music from acts that are felons and who have been arrested or convicted of violence against women, and songs that promote violence against women and misogyny.

Kelly isn’t the only artist affected by the policy. Rapper XXXtentacion, who is awaiting trial on charges that he beat up his pregnant girlfriend, has also been removed from Spotify’s playlists.

However, there are many other artists who in theory could be subject to the policy. Chris Brown is featured in several Spotify-created playlists; he pleaded guilty to an attack on Rihanna several years ago.

And there are a multitude of songs from artists in different genres that could be construed as hateful.

Spotify said it worked with several groups to create its policy, including GLAAD, the Anti-Defamation League and The Southern Poverty Law Center.

It has also created what it calls an internal monitoring tool to identify content flagged as hateful and has asked users for their help as well.

GLAAD Director of Entertainment Media Jeremy Blacklow called the policy “a strong step in creating a platform that encourages what most music fans want today – music and artists that reflect diverse voices and foster respect for everyone.”

“Content that emboldens hatred or violence against marginalised communities, as well as artists who engage in harmful conduct, are not worthy of being showcased,” Blacklow said in a statement.