R. Kelly and XXXTentacion Pulled From Spotify Playlists for ‘Hateful Conduct’

Posted May 10, 2018 12:08 p.m. EDT

R. Kelly’s music will no longer be promoted by Spotify and has been removed from all official playlists and recommendation features on the streaming service, the company announced Thursday, adding its voice to the growing chorus attempting to hold the singer responsible after decades of accusations of sexual misconduct.

“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,” Spotify said 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.”

Last week, the Time’s Up organization, which formed around the #MeToo movement to support victims of sexual abuse, joined a grass-roots #MuteRKelly campaign that has called on his record label and concert promoter, as well as local venues, radio stations and streaming services to cease its support of the platinum-selling R&B singer.

R. Kelly, who for years has faced lawsuits and news reports alleging sexual coercion and abuse of young girls and women, has denied the accusations. He is not currently facing any criminal charges and was acquitted in 2008 in a child pornography case that took six years to bring to trial. His management team has called the recent Time’s Up campaign an “attempted public lynching of a black man.”

Spotify’s announcement regarding R. Kelly’s music came as the company debuted a new policy regarding “hate content and hateful conduct.” It defines such content as any that “expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”

The streaming service also noted that it has “thought long and hard about how to handle content that is not hate content itself, but is principally made by artists or other creators who have demonstrated hateful conduct personally.”

A representative for Spotify said that in addition to R. Kelly, the chart-topping rapper and singer XXXTentacion, who is facing charges in Florida that include aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and witness tampering, was also removed from playlists as of Thursday. As recently as Wednesday, XXXTentacion was featured on the popular Rap Caviar playlist.

Universal Music, which oversees XXXTentacion’s distributor, Caroline, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. R. Kelly’s label, RCA Records, a division of Sony Music, did not immediately comment either.

R. Kelly currently has one publicly scheduled tour date, on Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina. A representative for the venue, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, said Thursday that the show had not been affected by the protest effort and tickets are still available via Ticketmaster.

Though Spotify has previously removed songs from white supremacist acts, its new policy represents a more hands-on approach to editorial decisions such as the content of playlists and the algorithmic recommendations of features like Discover Weekly. Asked last August about its policy regarding artists charged with violent crimes, Spotify said: “As a general matter, Spotify does not alter its content library based on the actions of the individuals behind the content. We hope that Spotify’s users will use their own discretion to determine exactly what music they listen to.”

Now, Spotify said the decision to no longer promote an artist would be made on a case-by-case basis by an internal committee led by Jonathan Prince, the company’s vice president of content and marketplace policy. The company said it had also partnered with advocacy groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League to help identify hateful content.

“When we look at promotion, we look at issues around hateful conduct, where you have an artist or another creator who has done 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,” Prince told Billboard.

However, Spotify noted in its announcement, “It’s important to remember that cultural standards and sensitivities vary widely. That means there will always be content that is acceptable in some circumstances, but is offensive in others, and we will always look at the entire context.”