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R Kelly reps hit out at Spotify ban

By | Published on Monday 14 May 2018

R Kelly

Representatives for R Kelly have responded to the news that Spotify has decided to no longer playlist his music on their platform because of the various allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against the musician. Said reps insist that their client has “never has been accused of hate” and argue that the streaming firm has acted as the result of a “smear campaign”.

Spotify announced it would cease playlisting R Kelly last week as it published a new policy on ‘hate content’ and ‘hateful conduct’. It was the latter that motivated the R Kelly ban. The streaming firm said of that policy: “We’ve thought long and hard about how to handle content that is not hate content itself, but is principally made by artists or other creators who have demonstrated hateful conduct personally”.

It went on: “While we don’t believe in censoring content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, we want our editorial decisions – what we choose to programme – to reflect our values. So, in some circumstances, 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”.

Numerous sexual abuse allegations have been made against Kelly, including accusations involving underage girls. And although those allegations date back years, they have been in the spotlight of late because of a campaign called #MuteRKelly which is encouraging music companies to cut their connections with the star.

But Kelly has always denied any wrongdoing, and – on the one occasion he was charged over one of those allegations, specifically that he had filmed the sexual abuse of an underage girl – he was acquitted in court.

Responding to the news of the Spotify playlisting ban under its ‘hateful conduct’ policy, Kelly’s spokesperson said: “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”.

Kelly’s people also noted that Spotify continues to playlist music from some artists who have been convicted of crimes, including domestic abuse. In doing so the reps were, of course, asking why a service would remove one artist over mere allegations but not another guilty of a crime.

Some have commended Spotify for responding to the #MuteRKelly campaign in this way, though his team’s response demonstrates just how tricky it can be to include moral judgements in playlisting decisions. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it, but it will likely cause complications aplenty down the line.