Less than a month after Spotify unveiled a new hate content and hateful conduct policy, which resulted in R. Kelly and other artists being removed from playlists, the company is now changing course.
In a new statement released Friday, Spotify apologized for being “vague” with its definitions and methodology and announced it would move away from the policy. “Spotify recently shared a new policy around hate content and conduct. And while we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines,” the statement reads.
In the statement, Spotify clarified the purpose of its two-pronged policy. The company restated its stance against hate content (“Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation”) but said the second part, aimed at artists accused of “hateful conduct,” had a mismanaged rollout.
“As some have pointed out, this language was vague and left too many elements open to interpretation,” the post continues. “We created concern that an allegation might affect artists’ chances of landing on a Spotify playlist and negatively impact their future. Some artists even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them. That’s not what Spotify is about. We don’t aim to play judge and jury. We aim to connect artists and fans — and Spotify playlists are a big part of how we do that.”
As American popular culture continues to wrestle with sexual harassment in the age of #MeToo, some prominent musicians have come under renewed fire for misconduct allegations. Back in 2002, R&B superstar R. Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography after the Chicago Sun-Times received a video allegedly showing Kelly having sex with an underage girl and urinating on her. Kelly was eventually acquitted on all charges, but similar accusations have dogged him in the years since. In July 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that Kelly was keeping women against their will in what their parents described as a ‘cult,’” and this March a new BBC documentary featured ex-girlfriends of Kelly talking about how he “trained” women to be his “pets.” Kelly has emphatically denied allegations of nonconsensual sex.
Days after leaders of the Time’s Up movement announced a public call to “mute” R. Kelly, Spotify rolled out this new policy, and called out Kelly by name in a statement: “We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly. His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it.”
In addition to Kelly, the rapper XXXTentacion also saw his music removed from Spotify playlists. He is currently awaiting trial for a 2016 domestic abuse case. According to Bloomberg, representatives for recent Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar contacted Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and head of artist relations Troy Carter to express their frustration with the policy — including a threat to pull their music from the platform.