Spotify takes a refreshing stance
Back when I left university, the first proper non-temp job I got was working as a media technician in a school. The most fun part of the job was running the radio station, which had a proper license for broadcasting in the local area.
Given we were a school, we had to be really careful with the playlist. Many of the kids loved hip-hop and R&B, but we had to be selective about which tracks we allowed, so nothing too sexual or violent was included. We also had a quiet ban on R Kelly. Even back in the early ‘00s, rumours were rife about his behaviour, and playing his music to an audience of teenagers in our care just didn’t seem right.
We never explained the ban to the kids – they just had to accept that for some reason we never had a copy of Ignition Remix, his big hit back then.
I was reminded of this yesterday, when Spotify announced its ban of R Kelly’s music from its own playlists and promotions. On one hand, I felt like our decision back at the school radio station was years ahead of its time (in a good way) but there are good arguments against such a ban, too.
Spotify is such a big force in music streaming that its actions have a broader effect than one big radio station banning an artist. And if Spotify is banning artists based just on (a lot of) allegations, should it remove many more artists that have faced allegations untested in a court of law? And why no mention of a ban on someone like Chris Brown
There are no easy answers to these questions, but what’s refreshing to see is that Spotify has drawn a clear marker other tech firms seem uncomfortable with. It has admitted that at least part of its business is as a media company with editorial responsibilities.
Sure, R Kelly’s label can upload his music, and his fans can listen to it – Spotify the platform is fine with that and makes no judgement. But Spotify the editorial curator of music playlists has made a decision based partly on public opinion and partly on a stance it has chosen to take. That’s what editors do, and it’s refreshing to see a tech company go there in such a high-profile way.