Music Industry

This was inevitable: Discussions of Spotify’s “hateful conduct policy” turns to race

It doesn’t take long for any contentious issue to be viewed through the lens of race, especially in the United States.

Spotify’s new public hate content and hateful conduct policy, which states that the company will now use its editorial privileges to refrain from promoting music it feels is inappropriate, is now in the crosshairs of people who believe that black artists are being unfairly targeted.

Spotify is not removing this music from the platform nor is it censoring it. The music will just no longer promote the music by including it on the playlists it creates. If you want, say, something from Chris Brown or R. Kelly or XXXTentacion (all acts who have run afoul of #MeToo standards and accused and not necessarily convicted of felonies), enter their name into search and all their music will come up.

From Billboard:

Several high-ranking Spotify ­executives were blindsided by the policy themselves and upset that the teams who interface with acts and labels weren’t consulted, while concern has mounted both inside and outside the ­streaming ­service that the policy initially ­targeted artists of color.

“Spotify’s got to realize that these are innocent people by court of law,” says one label executive close to a recently de-playlisted artist. “For them to be judge and jury is a very dangerous thing.”

While many music industry executives say streaming services are well within their rights to curate their homepages and playlists as they see fit — and without explanation — it’s Spotify’s creation of an official policy nearly impossible to apply fairly that has drawn the outrage. In statements, reps for both XXXTentacion and Kelly ­questioned why other artists, many of them white, were not also ­de-playlisted despite facing similar ­accusations and, in some cases, ­convictions. Jim Gordon, the drummer for Derek & The Dominos, for example, was denied bail for a 10th time in April, having served 35 years of a life sentence for killing his mother in 1983 — but “Layla,” on which he performed and co-wrote, appears on several Spotify playlists. Shaunna Thomas, executive director of women’s advocacy group Ultraviolet, publicly called for the service to also de-playlist artists like Chris Brown, Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nelly, among others.

“How many artists on the white side [is this happening to]?” asks one major-label branding executive. “We can go down the list and note all the disgusting things that they have done but they seem to still have access.”

Slippery slope? You bet. Where does Spotify draw the line when it comes to de-playlisting artists accused of hateful things?

This can only get weirder and more complicated. We need to watch how this develops. Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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