#Mute: Soon Spotify Will Let Users Block Problematic Artists

On January 3, an explosive documentary called “Surviving R. Kelly” was released on Lifetime. The six-part series resurfaced decades of abuse allegations against the popular R&B singer and within a weekend, the social media campaign #MuteRKelly was a top trending topic.

But as tweets and Op-Eds put pressure on R. Kelly’s music label to drop him and for police to investigate him, streams of the artist increased 116% after the doc aired.

Streaming services have been caught in the crossfire when problematic artists are allowed to still benefit financially from their art.  Spotify tried and failed to remove R. Kelly from the streaming platform back in 2018 when a Buzzfeed article leveled serious allegations against the singer.  The backlash was swift and Spotify was forced to re-instate Kelly’s catalogue when powerful artists like Kendrick Lamar rallied around the singer.

In the wake of a crop of new allegations and new investigations, what is the responsibility of a music streaming service when an artist becomes problematic?

Spotify’s solution this time, gives the ultimate veto power to its users.

Spotify is about to launch a feature within the app that will allow users to mute artists they don’t wan to hear on the platform.  The feature is currently being tested in the latest iOS version of the app.  The feature will allow a user to block an entire artist from playing.  That means content from a blocked artist will never play from a library, playlist, chart list or even a radio station.  Currently the block feature only works for content by an individual artist, but doesn’t apply to tracks that are collaborations that might feature that artist.

Read More: The Verge

Why Its Hot: In the social media age, a trending hashtag is all it takes to put pressure on brands and businesses.  And increasingly, brands are being asked to use their power to right wrongs, be that removing an ad from a controversial news program as in the case of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, or to remove controversial artists from their platforms.  This solution, if it takes off, may be a way for streaming services to side step having to take a public stand, but in the end give its users the final say over who they want to block…and #Mute.

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