R. Kelly has been removed from all Spotify playlists and his music will no longer be promoted on the platform, the streaming service announced on Thursday.
Listeners can still find R. Kelly’s music of their own accord, but Spotify will no longer recommend his music on its discover page or any other algorithmic playlists.
“We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly," Spotify said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News.
"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," the company said. "When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator."
R. Kelly's management team told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the artist has "never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire."
"Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women. He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff," the musician's management team said. "Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit."
A source close to Spotify confirmed to BuzzFeed News that rapper XXXTentacion's music has also been removed from Spotify owned and operated playlists and like R. Kelly, his music will no longer be promoted on the platform.
XXXTentacion, a 20-year-old rapper famous for songs like "Look at Me and "Fuck Love," was arrested in 2016 on various charges, including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and witness tampering.
"Spotify has been practicing some version of the policy for sometime," the source told BuzzFeed News. "Today is the first time they've publicly communicated it."
In a statement to the New York Times, XXXTentacion asked why other musicians accused of crimes had not been subject to the same treatment. Spotify did immediately respond to request for further comment, nor did XXXTentacion's record label Caroline International.
The news comes shortly after the Time’s Up initiative announced a boycott of the artist, specifically calling out Spotify for featuring Kelly's music. BuzzFeed News also contacted Apple Music and Tidal to ask if they were planning on taking similar action.
The 51-year-old artist has long denied the sex abuse allegations made against him.
Spotify also announced its new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct policy on Thursday, which states that it will monitor hateful content that “expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability” on its music service with the help of users and rights advocacy groups.
According to Spotify, it “may remove content that violates our policy or refrain from promoting or playlisting it.”
“This is our first iteration of this new policy. These are complicated issues, and we’re going to continue to revise our Policy on Hate Content and Hateful Conduct,” Spotify said in a press release. “We’ll make some mistakes, we’ll learn from them, and we’ll always listen to you as we work to keep building the Spotify platform.”
Here's the full statement from R. Kelly's management team:
We appreciate Spotify for continuing to make R. Kelly’s songs accessible to millions of people, although it will stop listing his songs on its official playlists.
Spotify is adopting a new “Hate Content & Hateful Conduct” policy. R Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire.
Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women. He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff. He never has been convicted of a crime, nor does he have any pending criminal charges against him.
Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit. It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers.
Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature.
Mr. Kelly falls into none of these categories, and it is unfortunate and shortsighted that Spotify fails to recognize this.