Spotify deletes R. Kelly from its playlists, but many problematic artists remain

Spotify deletes R. Kelly from its playlists, but many problematic artists remain
[Photo: Heather Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images]

Effective today, Spotify will no longer promote R. Kelly’s music through its editorial or algorithmic playlists under the company’s new hate content and hateful conduct policy.

R. Kelly’s music will still be available on Spotify. It just won’t be featured in highly popular playlists like New Music Friday or RapCaviar.

“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,” said Spotify in a statement to Billboard. “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.”

Spotify’s decision to remove R. Kelly from its playlists follows #MuteRKelly, a recently launched campaign from the Time’s Up organization aimed at streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as concert promoters like Ticketmaster and R. Kelly’s record label RCA. The hope is that these entities will cut ties with the singer, who has faced numerous allegations of pedophilia and sexual violence against women.

There’s no word as of yet if any of the other companies targeted in #MuteRKelly will do just that. However, Spotify taking the lead could very well set off a domino effect, at least on streaming platforms.

That said, it’s unclear which other artists will be penalized in a similar fashion under Spotify’s policy. Florida rapper XXXtentacion’s second album, ?, recently debuted at No. 1 on Billboard, and he’s currently featured in Spotify’s playlists including Get Turnt and Cloud Rap. But he’s also been charged with aggravated battery against a pregnant woman, home invasion and robbery, domestic battery, and a slew of other highly problematic charges.

Or what about the Red Hot Chili Peppers (featured in ’90s Rock Renaissance and Acoustic ’90s), whose various members have faced sexual battery and/or sexual harassment allegations over the years?


Or what about Chris Brown (featured in I love My ’00s R&B and Throwback Jams) who beat up then-girlfeind Rihanna back in 2009 but doesn’t appear to have changed his ways? His recent ex—actress Karrueche Tran—filed a restraining order against him last year following incidents of alleged domestic violence and threats.

Or what about Polish death metal band Decapitated (featured in Death Metal & Beyond), whose members were accused of kidnapping and raping a fan last year?

Spotify’s rule for classifying hateful conduct seems pretty vague at the moment. The company doesn’t expressly state any statute of limitations or level of fame that’s being taken into consideration when pulling artists from playlists. Spotify did acknowledge, however, that the scope of executing its policy is “impossible” to manually review, so it’s instituting three “nets” to help catch and evaluate potentially hateful content:

Content monitoring: We are continuing to develop and implement content monitoring technology which identifies content on our service that has been flagged as hate content on specific international registers.

Expert partners: We regularly consult with rights advocacy groups to review their most recent analyses of hateful content.

Your Help: If you feel any content violates our hate content policy, complete the form here and we will carefully review it against our policy.

Read more about Spotify’s new policy here.