After facing widespread outcry from throughout the music industry, Spotify has officially stepped back from its controversial “hateful conduct” policy on artist curation. Spurred at least in part by the #MuteRKelly movement—which aims to reduce the public profile of the R&B singer, who’s been accused of abusive and coercive treatment toward a number of young women—the policy saw the music streaming service selectively remove artists from its various promotional systems based on their real-world actions. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion—who’s currently awaiting trial on charges related to an alleged incident of domestic abuse against his pregnant girlfriend—both had their music pulled from Spotify’s curated playlists as a result of the policy.
The problem with Spotify’s attempt—as many people have pointed out—is that it’s more-or-less impossible to implement in any kind of fair or systemic way; Spotify currently boasts more than a million artists in its libraries, and the idea of individually rating each one’s conduct on some sort of metric of “hatefulness” is obviously absurd. Pushback against the policy started almost immediately, with artists like multiple Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar threatening to pull their music from the service if it was kept in place.
XXXTentacion’s music was placed back into algorithmic rotation last week (like Kelly, his music was already still available for streaming via the service, just not as part of any of Spotify’s signature Discovery playlists). And while it’s not clear if or when Kelly’s music will be returned to a similar status, the company did explain some of its thinking on the decision earlier today. Noting that it was ever only intended to address “rare cases of the most extreme artist controversies”—i.e., “the ones we’re going to get yelled at for promoting”—the company stated that, “Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct.”
The company also re-iterated its intention to continue to remove music and bands with “hateful content,” such as lyrics promoting white supremacy and other toxic ideas, from its service’s libraries outright.