Apple Music, Pandora Join Spotify in (Sort Of) Muting R. Kelly

Three streaming services have now removed the R&B singer's music from curated playlists

R. Kelly Credit: Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

Spotify caused a mighty stir yesterday when it announced that, under a new public policy against "hate content and hateful conduct," it would no longer feature R. Kelly on its playlists. The following day, Apple Music and Pandora announced they will also stop promoting the R&B singer, who is facing multiple sexual misconduct and assault allegations.

Sources told Pitchfork and The Blast that Apple Music had quietly pulled R. Kelly from featured playlists before Spotify's announcement and that Pandora does not currently promote the singer's music. R. Kelly’s music is still available on both streaming platforms – and Spotify's – but users have to search for it specifically, rather than coming across it on company-curated playlists. Apple Music said its decision was made weeks ago; Pandora said it has been overhauling its approach to "artists with unacceptable conduct" for months. "Pandora's policy is to not actively promote artists with certain demonstrable behavioral, ethical or criminal issues," the company said in a statement.

Neither streaming service, though, has come out with a policy around artists' content or conduct in general. XXXTentacion, a controversy-laden rapper charged with domestic abuse felonies, was removed from popular Spotify playlists under its new policy, but remains on Apple Music's promoted playlists.

For all three companies, the task of policing artists is murky territory. Spotify, Apple and Pandora have all stated artists will be judged on a "case-by-case" basis – language that deflects the larger question of how the companies will distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior going forward. (When asked for a comment, XXXTentacion's management team gave lists of other musicians who have been accused of violence and abuse and asked if they'll also be taken off Spotify.)