UPDATED to include comment from women’s advocacy group UltraViolet.
Spotify today retreated from a controversial artist conduct policy, which it acknowledged had created “confusion and concern” in the recording industry (and even among its own employees).
The music streaming service had instituted a tough policy designed to combat hate speech and punish artists for misconduct. The new guidelines, which had been developed in the spirit of the #MeToo movement, removed from playlists songs from R. Kelly, the R&B singer who has been accused of statutory rape, and XXXTentacion, a rapper charged with battering a pregnant woman.
While some applauded the policy as supporting women’s rights, others questioned why Spotify had singled out two prominent black performers for punishment.
“As some have pointed out, this language was vague and left too many elements open to interpretation,” Spotify said in a statement released this morning. “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.”
Spotify said that wasn’t its intention, and that it has no interest in “playing judge and jury.” The service said it had failed to spend enough time getting input from its own team and partners before developing the guidelines, which had been intended to address the most extreme artist controversies.
The service said it was “moving away” from implementing this policy around artist conduct.
Chief Executive Daniel Ek said earlier this week that the content policy had been “rolled out wrong,” saying Spotify had no interest in being the morality police.
The decision drew criticism from the national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet.
“Two weeks ago, Spotify declared that, ‘we want our editorial decisions—what we choose to program—to reflect our values.’ Now, we know exactly what those values are: profits over people, and music industry bigwigs over survivors of abuse,” said UltraViolet Co-Founder Shaunna Thomas.
Spotify is leaving in place prohibitions on hate speech — that is, language designed 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,” Spotify said.