Spotify & It’s Crusade Against Hip-Hop

Here we go again…

The ongoing saga of R Kelly inspired controversy continues to unravel, as Spotify recently announced another change to it’s ‘hateful content & conduct’ policy. You can read the full version here, but in the interest of time we’ll summarise:

“There was a backlash that resulted in loss of profits, so now we’re backtracking”

Obviously that isn’t verbatim, but pretty much sums up the reasoning behind the decision.

The Tangle of the Limelight

Artists in the spotlight have a double edged relationship when it comes to fame – their influence affords them much more lenience when it comes to getting what they want. However, once the media decides to run with a damaging story, there’s not much an artist can do to stop it spreading like wildfire. Their limelight is often responsible for both their success and subsequent downfall.

The relationship between fame, art & controversy, makes it very difficult for companies to create policies which are void of political undertones. The backlash surrounding Spotify’s original roll out of their new policy, is a perfect demonstration of this.

Money Talks

The original policy removed R Kelly & XXXTentacion from official playlists curated by Spotify. A decision which speaks the language R Kelly understands – money. Which is the crux of this whole affair. Morals, art & reputation are secondary to the most important thing for companies like Spotify, and that’s money.

Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

Their policies only change to reflect the majority opinion, because otherwise their profit tumbles.

The latest policy turn around was seemingly driven by labels such as Top Dawg Entertainment, who are home to numerous hip-hop powerhouses – Kendrick Lamar & SZA to name a few. The CEO Anthony Tiffith, threatened to pull all of the labels music as it seemingly discriminated against ‘hip hop culture’, and threatened to get the whole culture to back out of any association with Spotify. This suggestion was also backed by music mogul P Diddy, another incredibly influential figure in hip-hop.

Unsurprisngly, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek ‘clarified’ the new policy. Surely for his personal love of hip-hop music? Or the great respect he had for fellow entrepreneurs Diddy and Tiffith? No. Of course it wasn’t. It was dollar dollar bills y’all.

Let’s imagine for a second that Top Dawg Entertainment & Diddy used their influenced to systematically remove hip-hop from Spotify. People would start asking why. If it then came to light that Diddy & Tiffith felt Spotify were discriminating against hip-hop – a genre rooted in black history, it is almost certain their stock prices would plummet.

YOUR Money Talks

In the music business, artists and controversy are entangled. So much so, that navigating the ethics as a consumer is incredibly difficult.

So take this is a reminder. We often feel powerless in the world. With no way of impacting upon the billionaires who control the services and products we want access to. But we often forget how these people become so influential in the first place. Daniel Ek wouldn’t be worth billions of dollars, if it wasn’t for billions of people using his service every waking second.

You, as a consumer, have the power. You can protest with your pocket, wherever your money goes, the power follows suit.

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash