NEW YORK (AFP) – Spotify on Friday backtracked on a policy that reduced exposure for artists accused of personal misconduct, after criticism that the leading streaming platform was hurting musicians over vague criteria.
Spotify said in May that it would remove from its playlists — a popular way for listeners to discover artists and replay songs — music from artists known for “harmful or hateful” behavior, although the tracks would still be available.
The move followed a campaign by the Time’s Up movement for gender equality for the music industry to drop R. Kelly, the R&B star who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with young women and underage girls.
Kelly was among artists booted from playlists under the policy as well as XXXTentacion, a rapper involved in numerous violent incidents including allegedly beating his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
But following criticism, Spotify said its language was “vague and left too many elements open to interpretation,” including whether unproven allegations or youthful transgressions would affect artists’ ability to enter playlists.
“That’s not what Spotify is about. We don’t aim to play judge and jury,” the Swedish company, which has 174 million users globally, said in a blog post.
“Our playlist editors are deeply rooted in their respective cultures, and their decisions focus on what music will positively resonate with their listeners,” it said.
Spotify said it was “moving away” from the policy.
But it said it would keep in place a related ban on music that incites hatred or violence, a rule that banned entirely songs by white supremacist acts.
Critics of Spotify’s original policy had included the label of Kendrick Lamar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper who was the service’s fourth most-streamed artist last year.
“Whoa. Are they censoring the music? That’s dangerous,” Punch, co-president of Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment, wrote on Twitter amid reports that the rapper was threatening to pull his music from Spotify.
Spotify did not immediately comment on whether it would restore controversial artists to playlists.
Online critics also questioned whether Spotify was being selective in targeting R. Kelly and XXXTentacion, pointing out that allegations of personal misconduct are hardly novel in the music industry.