NEW YORK — Streaming numbers for R. Kelly have remained intact a week after Spotify announced it had removed the R&B singer’s music from its playlists, citing its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct.
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.
R. Kelly’s streams have grown steadily in the last two years: His music averaged 4,709,000 weekly streams in 2016 and 5,666,000 weekly streams in 2017. So far for 2018, he is averaging 6,674,000 weekly streams. While R. Kelly’s streaming has grown, his numbers are small in comparison to Drake, 2017’s most streamed artist: He averaged 112,735,000 weekly streams last year.
Nielsen Music’s numbers are based on audio streams from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and other music platforms.
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.
We join the call to #MuteRKelly and insist on the safety + dignity of all women. We demand investigations into R. Kelly’s abuse allegations made by women of color + their families for two decades. We call on those who profit from his music to cut ties. #MuteRKelly #TIMESUP #WOC pic.twitter.com/TYmDRVIH00
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) April 30, 2018
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 embattled entertainer has been accused of sexual abuse of women though he faces no criminal charges. Spotify removed his music from their promoted playlists and algorithms following a campaign from #MuteRKelly and others to sanction R. Kelly. News outlets have reported that Apple and Pandora are also not promoting the singer’s music, though both companies haven’t officially made announcements like Spotify.
Shaunna Thomas, the co-founder and executive director of the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, said the point is not to stop people from listening to his music, but for companies to stop promoting him.
“Frankly it’s not important in this context whether people are listening to his music or not, what’s important is that Spotify is holding itself to the standard that they themselves established and they live up to it,” Thomas said in an interview Monday.
Thomas wrote a letter to Spotify last week, commending the company for its new policy but also demanded that Spotify remove Chris Brown, Eminem, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and others from its playlists.
“This is really just about stepping into the role of champion, stepping into the role of setting the higher standard that I think they’ve put themselves on the track to do, and hopefully they’ll do the right thing,” Thomas said.
The Time’s Up campaign took aim at R. Kelly late last month over allegations that he has sexually abused women. The organization urged further investigation into the singer’s behaviour, which has come under closer scrutiny over the last year in wake of the #MeToo movement, as women have come forward to accuse him of everything from sexual coercion to physical abuse.
Kelly has denied such charges.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-producer was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. Despite that, he continued to score hits and sell out arenas.
His career is not as white-hot as it once was: It’s been five years since any of his songs have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: His last hit there was his guest appearance on Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want,” which peaked at No. 13 in 2013; his last leading hit was in 2007 with “Same Girl,” which reached No. 20 and co-starred Usher.
Thomas said though R. Kelly’s streaming numbers haven’t changed much, it’s still too early to say that his music won’t be affected by the campaigns against him.
“To argue that these numbers reflect the common consensus about whether people want to be paying for his music and helping him profit off the type of music he creates and the type of person he is, I think it’s very early in the game to suggest that,” she said.
A look at R. Kelly’s most streamed songs in the last month, according to Nielsen Music (information based on streaming from April 17, 2018 through May 17, 2018).
1.”Ignition” — 6,568,000
2.”If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time” — 2,423,000
3.”Bump N’ Grind” — 2,271,000
4.”Same Girl — 1,100,000
5.”Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)” — 1,099,000
6.”I Believe I Can Fly” — 901,000
7.”It Seems Like You’re Ready” — 874,000
8.”Step In the Name of Love” — 737,000
9.”Cookie” — 655,000
10.”When a Women’s Fed Up” — 642,000
11.”I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” — 565,000
12.”The World’s Greatest” — 531,000
13.”Feelin’ On Yo Booty” — 524,000
14.”Fiesta” — 484,000
- “Step In My Room” — 482,000
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.