Limiting music made by artists who have displayed “hateful conduct” has apparently turned out to be more complicated and polarising than the company expected. The streaming service’s decision to scrap that policy comes after massive blowback from the music industry. Some suggested Spotify’s policy was akin to censorship, although the claims were disingenuous — the artists were still available to stream, just not promoted on the platform.
The policy was first put into effect in concurrence with a call from Time’s Up and #MuteRKelly, in an attempt to limit the promotion of music made by people who have displayed harmful or hateful behaviour — like R. Kelly, who has been accused of sexual misconduct for decades, and XXXTentacion, who was accused of assaulting a pregnant woman.
But like everything else about this policy, the rollback was sudden and more than a little messy.
Spotify appears to recognise the impact it has on the music industry: major playlists like Rap Caviar, which has a whopping 9.6 million followers, have begun to flex their influence alongside traditional mediums like radio and record sales when it comes to charting on the Billboard Hot 100. Spotify saw distancing its star-making platform from people with histories of offensive and disturbing behaviour as an important move, if not executed in a business-savvy manner.
But good intentions pale in the face of imprecise decision-making. In a response to the New York Times’ initial reporting when the policy was first announced, XXXTentacion’s representative posed a question that underscored how confusingly the policy’s implementation was handled: what about all of the other artists who have been accused and convicted of sexual misconduct, or battery and assault, or a multitude of crimes?
Walking back a carelessly assembled policy is a good call. But Spotify was on to something — being a trendsetting platform that actively shapes popular culture should take a stand. It just needs to be sure it takes the right one.