Two years ago, the rapper Famous Dex was caught on camera beating his girlfriend. Though not mentioned on his wikipedia page, the incident appeared to be a potential career ender. However the graphic incident only delayed his momentum and earlier this year he released his debut album, Dex Meets Dexter, which peaked on at #12 on the Billboard charts. Right now Famous Dex can be found on RapCaviar (9.5 Million Followers), Today’s Top Hits (19.9 Million Followers), Get Turnt (3.7 Million Followers), and many other high profile playlists. Famous Dex was never charged or convicted of his crime, but the grisly footage speaks for itself
Spotify sidestepped offering commentary on individual cases, but when XXXTentacion was suddenly pulled while Famous Dex continues to rise up their internal playlist system there’s a reasonable question of what is guiding force behind these choices. The public outcry against Famous Dex wasn’t quite as loud, while his profile wasn’t as big. Still the incident received coverage in Complex and the Fader so it wasn’t completely ignored.
Billboard reported a very good question
in a piece specific focusing on what are the ramifications of this potentially vague policy. A question I thought was smart by an unnamed executive was: “What about artists on a label run by someone who has harassed interns? Feels like a slippery slope for them.” Let’s not make this so abstract.
Earlier this year Variety reported that Charlie Walk
, the former president of Republic Records, and Universal Music Group agreed to part ways earlier this year after a number of sexual harassment allegations were put towards Walk. Let’s look at some artists on Republic Records: Post Malone, who just scored a debut streaming week of 431 million streams, Drake, whose More Life “playlist,” got more than 385 million streams its opening week in 2017, and Ariana Grande whose single “No Tears Left to Cry” currently has over 121 million streams on Spotify alone.
I doubt Spotify would say the accusations facing Walk reflect their values and now that this policy exists how far up the ladder will it go.Major label contracts are often structured in a way that it’s the label, not the artist, who is benefiting the most from streaming royalties. So then potentially wouldn’t it make sense make sure this judgement isn’t only felt by single artists, but entire labels and systems that prop up these bad actors.
An outcome of Spotify’s policy could be a shift in how record label handles these kinds of accusations and figures within the industry. If artists are going to be potentially blocked from one of the primary ways of music promotion, then why not also aim at executives who are the real money makers from these systems. Now it starts to make sense why this policy opened up so many difficult to answer questions.
The broader question of the role that music plays in society is a thread that Sasha Geffen excellently pulled together towards the end of their Vulture essay on this matter
Spotify’s new policy is heartening, but it obscures a deeper problem in contemporary media consumption. Streaming services, like the rest of the internet, relentlessly individuate. They pose music listening not as a communal activity but as a personal habit that can be algorithmically accommodated based on user input…No music is ever made just for you. A song is, at its core, a link between artist and listener, and a fan base is by nature a community of people. That fans of a given artist have a social responsibility toward each other is a point often eschewed in favor of promoting individual boycotts and championing ethical media consumption.
This is what is so interesting about this Spotify’s choice in announcing this policy. A company that wants to serve micro-target to just specifically you just decided to make a unilateral choice that’d effect all users without even providing an individualistic option like an artist ban or mute function. The choice runs against the company’s prevailing ideology, while opening an unseal-able can of worms. Spotify now dons a moral cop badge over music, when the company might’ve wanted to remember every good deed doesn’t need a press release.