Despite a new Spotify policy on hateful content or conduct that removed R. Kelly’s music from the service’s official playlists, the musician’s streaming numbers have been unaffected, according to The Associated Press. Before the policy change on May 10th, his music received an average of 6,584,000 streams per week on Spotify; in the week after the announcement it received 6,676,000 streams.
Kelly’s music was originally blacklisted from the curated playlists created by Spotify — but not from the service itself — because of the numerous allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation leveled against him over the years. A 2017 BuzzFeed article reported on an abusive sex cult allegedly created by Kelly, where women said he physically punished them for breaking his “rules” and controlled their every move. His behavior received renewed attention as the #MeToo gained steam, resulting in a #MuteRKelly campaign supported by numerous women of color in the Time’s Up movement.
After Spotify decided to deemphasize Kelly by not actively promoting him on their playlists, Apple Music and Pandora followed suit. “While we don’t believe in censoring content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values,” said a Spotify spokesperson.
The editorial decisions by these services inevitably sparked a round of internet pearl-clutching about and how this was “alarming” and “worrying” — some by writers who did not seem to grasp that R. Kelly’s music was still available in the catalogue. But it appears that the new policy did not lead us all down a Slip n’ Slide towards dystopian censorship, nor did it make a perceptible dent in the streaming popularity of Kelly’s music. Spotify and other streaming services have articulated their values, and users who wish to keep supporting Kelly despite his alleged abuses are free to keep playing “Ignition (Remix)” as often as they want — and for better or worse, they are.