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Spotify cancels a new artist conduct policy due to ‘confusion and concern’

Spotify’s policy backtrack comes just one month after it was implemented

Nearly one month after it was announced, Spotify is backtracking on its new artist conduct policy which was initially focused on R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion. The policy was announced in early May, with Spotify responding to the Time’s Up movement’s call for the removal of R. Kelly’s music from streaming sites as one of the many steps towards addressing the allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault that have swirled around the artist for years. At the time, Spotify confirmed that they would be removing all of R. Kelly’s music from Spotify playlists and they would stop promoting his work on the platform as part of their new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct policy. At the time, Vulture also discovered that Spotify had chosen to remove XXXTentacion’s music from their popular Rap Caviar playlist, noting that it may have been done in connection with the allegations of domestic abuse XXXTentacion was facing. 

Now, Vulture reports that Spotify is changing their policy yet again. “As some have pointed out, this language was vague and left too many elements open to interpretation,” Spotify writes in a new statement, released on June 1. “We created concern that an allegation might affect artists’ chances of landing on a Spotify playlist and negatively impact their future. Some artists even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them.”

The statement continues, “That’s not what Spotify is about. We don’t aim to play judge and jury. We aim to connect artists and fans – and Spotify playlists are a big part of how we do that. Our playlist editors are deeply rooted in their respective cultures, and their decisions focus on what music will positively resonate with their listeners. That can vary greatly from culture to culture, and playlist to playlist. Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct.”

Spotify has taken a stern approach to artists and music that either toed the line or is blatantly hateful or racist in the past, which only seems to highlight just how at odds this backtrack appears to be. Back in August 2017, Spotify removed any artists classed as “hate bands,” removing artists that promoted white supremacist ideologies in their music. 

In their report, Vulture notes that Spotify will continue to remove blatantly hateful content from their platform in spite of this backtrack and that XXXTentacion will go back into playlist circulation. It’s still unclear, however, what Spotify will do about R. Kelly.