Earlier this month, Spotify made waves by deciding to remove R&B artist R. Kelly and rapper XXXtentacion from official playlists, citing a new policy on “Hate Content and Hateful Conduct.” It was an interesting and welcome concept, although poorly executed.
Many scrutinized Spotify for unfairly handing out punishments to some artists and not others. The fact that Spotify singled out black artists like Kelly, XXX, and also Bill Cosby, raised concerns of racism. However, far worse was the fact that Chris Brown was added to several high-profile playlists during the week it removed R. Kelly. Brown is infamous for having savagely beaten then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009.
According to Bloomberg, Spotify will marginally roll back its policy and will eventually restore songs by XXXTentacion to playlists. There are no plans to begin promoting R. Kelly again. Ironically, according to Digital Music News, Kelly actually received a significant bump in streams thanks to the media coverage surrounding the controversy.
“Where and how do you draw the line?” said Vickie Nauman, a media consultant who has worked with Spotify and all three major record labels. “I support taking a stand and not willingly sponsoring a known violent artist, but it’s quite unclear to me how you can consistently monitor and apply any sort of similar editorial/social/cultural standards across art on any scale.”
Spotify’s intentions were likely pure, but weren’t thought through enough to be implemented in any sort of appropriate fashion. Bloomberg reports that the policy is “still being hammered out” and “no final decisions have been made.”