R. Kelly was convicted. What happens to his music on streaming platforms?
In May 2018, Spotify removed R. Kelly’s music from its official playlists. The largest music streaming app in the United States has said it wants its “editorial decisions – what we choose to schedule – to reflect our values.”
Three years later, Kelly’s tracks are still missing from Spotify’s influential select packages. But the disgraced superstar’s full discography was still available on the service’s app Tuesday morning, a day after he was found guilty on all counts in a sex trafficking trial.
Kelly’s music was also readily available on Spotify’s main competitors, including Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Google-owned provider YouTube Music.
In the wake of Monday’s verdict, some on social media redoubled their efforts to push major music streaming services to remove Kelly’s discography, arguing in part that it was wrong to provide a global platform – and possible royalty income – to a convicted serial sexual predator. .
Spotify, Apple, Amazon and YouTube did not immediately respond to questions on Tuesday about what they were planning to do with Kelly’s music library and what criteria they might consider to remove all of an artist’s work. .
Kelly, 54, has been dragged along by disturbing charges of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse for decades even as he climbed the Billboard charts, won Grammy Awards and entered the R&B pantheon with hits like “I Believe I Can Fly “.
But with the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, the artist began to face further scrutiny. #MuteRKelly, a popular campaign co-founded by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Tisha Barnes, has worked to prevent her music from being shown on radio or streaming services.
“I started #MuteRKelly in July 2017 out of outrage. After decades of blatant abuse of black women and girls, R. Kelly was moving on with her life with our community sanctioned support,” said Odeleye, who is black, at HuffPost in February.
The campaign was successful in some ways. Kelly’s music is said to have largely disappeared from the radio, and the songs that were once the mainstays of graduation ceremonies, weddings and backyard parties have faded.
But data from streaming platforms suggests that the appetite for his hits from the 1990s and 2000s hasn’t waned. He has nearly 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, according to information at the top of his artist page on the app.
George Howard, professor of music business and management at Berklee College of Music, told NBC News he believes the need to remove Kelly’s music from streaming services has become even more urgent since the jury of the The artist’s federal lawsuit returned a guilty verdict.
“I think it became a lot less problematic with the decision that was made [Monday]Howard said. “We are now dealing with a different class of decision-making.”
“I think from an ethical framework we as a society have to decide when to separate an artistic production from a creator,” he said. “I think we can all agree that at no point in modern history has it ever been acceptable to sexually abuse children.”
“It is obvious to me,” he added, “and this behavior far outweighs any sort of artistic merit.”
Kelly, who has vehemently and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, has been convicted of orchestrating a long-standing scheme to recruit underage women and girls for sexual purposes.
The campaign to excise Kelly’s labor still raises thorny questions about the limit of streaming services. Major streaming destinations continue to promote albums by other artists who have been accused of misconduct and sexual abuse or other crimes, for example.
“That’s not an outlier here,” Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African American studies at Duke University, told NBC News NOW’s Joe Fryer Tuesday morning, noting that music legends such as Miles Davis has been accused of abusive behavior but continues to be so. held in high artistic esteem.
The New York Daily News editorial board, for its part, warned against dumping Kelly’s work in an article published on Tuesday.
“When you sponsor an artist, you raise him; when you sponsor a living artist, you are contributing to their profit. Likewise, companies that showcase creative products have the right to refuse to stock a particular individual on their real or virtual shelves, “the editorial wrote.
“But for bookstores, galleries and streaming services to begin to morally judge the lives of everyone they feature? On this road, madness is found,” the board added.
In some ways, #MuteRKelly echoes the debate over the digital future of other artistic creations, including movies and TV shows.
In the summer of 2020, for example, HBO Max briefly pulled “Gone with the Wind” amid close scrutiny of the Oscar-winning film’s racist content. The film has long been criticized for romanticizing Confederacy and denying the horrors of slavery.
“Gone with the Wind” has since been restored to HBO Max with an introductory video post from TCM host Jacqueline Stewart that explores the film’s context and racial politics.
The issue also highlights the unprecedented power of Silicon Valley’s tech giants.
In the age of physical media, consumers bought vinyl records or CDs and owned them in perpetuity. In the age of streaming, subscribers pay to access media floating in the proverbial “cloud” that could disappear overnight.