Image Source: Music Times
It is not surprising that attention has moved to Kanye West’s music associations. Including his label situation and streaming services, as he continues to escalate his antisemitic remarks. Adidas joins the list of companies to cut ties with him after Balenciaga, CAA, and others.
We’ve been down this road before: Similar queries surfaced as the severity of R. Kelly’s sexual misdeeds. Following months of requests, Kelly’s longtime record company, RCA, ultimately ended its relationship with the singer.
Spotify v. R. Kelly
However, Spotify’s attempt to outlaw Kelly’s music in the only natural way possible failed. Kelly had not been found guilty of any crimes at the time of the ill-defined ban, which it characterized as covering both “hate content,” or music with a terrible message like white supremacy, and “hateful conduct,” or an artist’s or creator’s actions. Within minutes, commentators started pointing out that music on Spotify and other streaming platforms was helping convicted criminals and even murderers like producers Phil Spector and Jim Gordon make money. Together with Eric Clapton, they wrote the legendary rock anthem “Layla.”
Spotify quickly retracted its position on the policy’s behavior clause. The streamer resolved not to make such company-wide decisions based on a creator’s behavior, even though it has continued to be done in practice.
That ruling returned the duty of deciding conduct to the music’s copyright holder, typically a record label. However, it is crucial to remember that these rights holders contribute music to streaming services and that the streaming service often only removes music that it finds to include hate speech.
Except for his 2013 collaboration with Lady Gaga, “Do What U Want,” Kelly’s entire discography is still accessible on all of the primary streaming services offered by Sony Music. However, in January 2019, she requested the song be taken down. Sony and Universal Music, the owners of the song’s copyright, complied with her request.
What happens to Kanye West’s material
It’s different with Kanye West. Kelly was guilty of inflicting physical damage on others. Although Kanye West hasn’t said it, it might be argued that hate speech and any subsequent provocation. The racist protests in Los Angeles over the weekend, showed that racism is not different from actual physical violence. The activities that caused Twitter to suspend Donald Trump for his participation in the attempted uprising on January 6 are identical.
West hasn’t explicitly expressed hate in his music yet, and even if he did, it’s unlikely that a label would distribute it or a streaming site would host it. And while some of his songs are offensive or potentially harmful, there are many more violent lyrics from musicians across musical genres.
West’s discography is still accessible on streaming sites and retail locations run by Universal, much like Kelly and Sony. And sure, his remaining shoe and clothing sales and the revenue from his catalog continue to bring in money for the artist, the rights holders, and other parties involved.
However, according to Luminate, West’s U.S. streaming saw a 23% decline between October 13 and October 20. Also, his airtime decreased by 13%. Despite a relatively small 2% decline in global streams, his sales globally decreased by 17.5%. They will decline more as long as he keeps making anti-Semitic remarks.
There are complex moral and legal considerations raised by the debate over Kanye West’s music. It would be a form of censorship, and the prohibition should apply to everyone else. Drawing that border is a challenging problem with no ideal answer, as Spotify discovered in 2018.
In a far better world, the owners of the rights to West’s music, or Kelly’s clothing and accessories, might donate those sales to organizations that fight against sexism or bigotry. However, regarding streaming services, the money made by individual artists goes to the rights-holders.
Sometimes terrible people create great art. It is up to the individual if they want to acquire their goods and services.