Spotify takes steps to #MuteRKelly, but critics say it's not enough

Amid the campaign to #MuteRKelly, Spotify made a bold move by announcing that it is no longer promoting the controversial singer’s music. However, R. Kelly’s songs will remain on the streaming site, leading some to say that the company could have been even bolder in its decision.

Spotify announced a new “hate content and hateful conduct policy” on Thursday. It stipulates, “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. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

R. Kelly performs at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Feb. 21. (Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images)
R. Kelly performs at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Feb. 21. (Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

The company then said in a statement to Billboard that, as a result of the new policy, “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.”

So far, Kelly is the only artist that Spotify has publicly said is being affected by this new policy.

While there have certainly been many people applauding the move, there have also been voices asking: Is this enough? As accusations against Kelly continue to grow — two more women came forward late last week alleging sexual abuse, followed by Tuesday’s Megyn Kelly Today featuring more of his alleged victims — is simply not promoting his music, but continuing to have it available and profit from it, enough?

And if the promotion of Kelly’s music is ending because of alleged misconduct, what about Michael Jackson’s? Or the music of Chris Brown, who actually has a felony conviction after assaulting Rihanna? What about Tommy Lee, who went to jail for assaulting Pamela Anderson? The list goes on.

Since the 1990s, we’ve been hearing about Kelly, now 51, allegedly having sexual relationships with minors, including his marriage to 15-year-old pop star Aaliyah, which was annulled. He has faced multiple lawsuits for inappropriate sexual relationships with underage women. He was once charged with creating child pornography, but was found not guilty because his partner couldn’t be seen in the sex tape after the alleged victim denied she was in it. Last summer, it all blew up again amid reports that he’s running a “sex cult.” This year, a shocking hour-long documentary called R Kelly: Sex, Girls, & Videotapes was released. Just days ago, Lifetime greenlighted a new documentary series and feature-length movie that aim to tell the stories of women who have fallen under his “toxic spell.”

A “Mute R. Kelly” campaign was started last year, and got a boost this year when it was backed by #TimesUp following Bill Cosby’s conviction. The campaign, started in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, demanded an investigation into Kelly’s behavior — and boycotts of his music. A lengthy statement released by his rep said the performer is “the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy.”

“We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to [#TimesUp’s] goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target,” the statement continued. “Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”

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