In early May, Spotify announced that artists who were deemed to have “done something that is especially harmful or hateful” would no longer have their music promoted on its curated playlists, with R Kelly among those affected.
But less than a month later, Spotify has announced that it is “moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct”.
A statement from the company explains: “While we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines.
“We created concern that an allegation might affect artists’ chances of landing on a Spotify playlist and negatively impact their future. Some artists even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them.
“That’s not what Spotify is about. We don’t aim to play judge and jury.”
R Kelly - who has faced and denied multiple sexual abuse allegations - was one of the most high-profile stars affected by the change.
Following Spotify’s initial announcement, his management team released a statement which accused the service of “bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers”.
XXXTentacion was another artist affected. His second album debuted at number one in the US charts earlier this year but he is also currently awaiting trial in a domestic abuse case. Under the policy, this meant he was removed from Spotify’s curated playlists, which he previously featured on frequently.
When the move was announced, his spokesperson responded to a New York Times request for comment by emailing a list of 19 other musicians who have previously been accused of physical or sexual assault, telling the paper: “I don’t have a comment, just a question. Will Spotify remove all the artists listed below from playlists?”
The section of the policy that regulated hateful song content will remain in place and Spotify’s new statement adds that it “does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation”.
“As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard,” they conclude. “We’re not talking about offensive, explicit, or vulgar content – we’re talking about hate speech.”