Why Spotify’s Ban of R Kelly is Dangerous and Pointless


Last week, Spotify announced they would no longer playlist R Kelly’s music. This means he would be removed from all playlists that are made by Spotify employees. As these are prominently featured within the app they are followed by millions of their users.

This move will inevitably cause a drop in R Kelly streaming numbers – however in the long run it will be meaningless to R Kelly financially.

A quick search of his name in the app reveals the following numbers

Ignition – 320 million streams
Bump n Grind – 70 million
I Believe I can Fly – 44 million
Im A Flirt – 28 Million
Same Girl 28 million

For an artist of his age and length in the music career those numbers could be a lot higher. In fact outside of Ignition the number of streams for his top tracks ranks pretty poorly against say Beyonce, Drake or Chris Brown.

Despite this, his live shows continue to sell out and his albums consistently go Platinium. This suggests that:

  1. His fans aren’t really listening to his music on Spotify anyway
  2. If Spotify de-playlists him it wont have much of an impact because people who want R Kelly will search for him anyway.

There was no mention of him being removed from peoples personal radio stations or coming up in automated suggestions, which are also responsible for a significant amount of artist streams.

If Spotify really wanted to make an impact they could just remove R Kelly from their platform all together.

However they will never ever do this simply because Sony music and Warner Music own sizeable stakes in the company (around 12% of all public shares between them).

If Spotify started removing artists they didn’t like the record labels would start losing money.

R Kelly is signed to RCA who are owned by Sony Music. Somewhere deep in Sony HQ R Kelly is responsible for a sizeable part of various execs fat salaries. They are not going to want a good thing to be messed with.

If they straight up removed R Kelly, then Sony could respond by saying they couldn’t stream Micheal Jackson (another controversial figure but well leave that for another day), Beyonce or any other popular artist that gives people a reason to pay Spotify the £9.99 (or equivalent in whatever currency) a month.

The same would apply for Universal (Drake) or Warner Music (Dr Dre, Interscope, Kendrick Lamar etc.). The consequences of such a scenario would not be positive for Spotify.

Its a bit of good PR, but nothing more. R Kelly will still continue to keep collecting his royalty cheques and maintaining his alleged harem.

Their actions also set a dangerous precedent, and across the media industry could lead to further erosion on freedom of expression and speech.

To a debatable extent this is already happening, but why should Spotify start censoring artists they don’t agree with?

Spotify should stop with the virtue signalling and just get on with delivering our music conveniently and effectively. Thats what people are paying them for right?

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