back to article Virtue singing – Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

R&B artist R. Kelly can no longer be found on playlists curated by streaming music giant Spotify after it introduced a new New Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Public Policy. The gist of the policy is that if a recording is hateful, Spotify may “remove it (in consultation with rights holders) or refrain from promoting or …

  1. Marco van de Voort


    Article seems to first indicate S. policy is on content of songs, but then it spins to the artist alleged lifestyle? Unclear.

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Confused

      the policy covers both

  2. John H Woods Silver badge

    OK, there's a spectrum, but ...

    ... surely we all agree that R. Kelly is a bit of a douche?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, there's a spectrum, but ...

      Many artists are.

      First they came for R. Kelly, then...

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Well, actually. . .

        first they came for Gary Glitter.

        Everyone draws the line differently but few would refuse to draw the line somewhere and those few are probably psychopaths.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Well, actually. . .

          Gary Glitter's music is still available on Spotify.

      2. John H Woods Silver badge

        "First they came for R. Kelly, then..."

        ... they came for the other paedophiles?

        Not bothered, sorry.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "First they came for R. Kelly, then..."

          ... they came for the other paedophiles?

          Not bothered, sorry.

          Then prosecute them and if found guilty, put them in prison.

          Banning them from online platforms without due process is not a substitute for justice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, there's a spectrum, but ...

      "... surely we all agree that R. Kelly is a bit of a douche?"

      Apparently it was originally R. Sole, but it was deemed too sophisticated humour for Americans...

  3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    R. Kelly,..... wow, I'm surprised, given the allegations made against him, and the evidence found in his possession he gets airplay anywhere. It went to trial, there was evidence, somehow he avoided being found guilty, but there was a strong case. Contrast this with how recently, other people have been dropped after mere allegations of misconduct.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      He was accused, tried in court and found not guilty. Yet the public insists that he's guilty of something so we must do something.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        So the evidence that was found, the video, and the digital images,... they go away after a not guilty verdict? One of the angles used to defend Kelly was how the evidence was discovered, this is a legal trap, not necessarily justice.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          @ GruntyMcPugh

          To paraphrase Billy Bragg lyric

          court of law not a court of justice

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I wonder what they'll make of Tim Minchin's The Pope Song under those rules.

    NB - If you're easily offended, you're better off avoiding The Pope Song.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Ahh, but isn't that the point of the The Pope Song?

      1. frank ly

        I've just found Tim Minchin on YouTube. I'm always late to the party. Thank you !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re. pope song

          uh-uh, if he turned up in Poland with a concert, he'd be crucified right there, at the Warsaw airport!

          well, unless he refers to that (...) German pope, of course!

        2. O RLY

          @frank ly

          Regarding Tim Minchin, you should start with the animated "Storm" as a great intro to him.

          link to Storm

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    with a rock in his fist

    oh dear

  6. Wintermute


    I have always found U2 to be profoundly offensive to anyone with a modicum of musical taste. Finally we can block these self-important supposed musicians from the Internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Finally

      "I have always found U2 to be profoundly offensive"

      Yes, don't they sing sectarian songs denigrating the glorious conquest of Ireland by the British?

  7. Halcin
    Big Brother

    Spotify says it’s willing to deal with such debates, has teamed with advocacy groups to develop its policy

    I would like to think that all advocacy groups are started for the right reasons - to tackle issues that need tackling.

    However, they (the advocacy groups) need to turn everything up to eleventy-stupid just to be heard. but they never say "our work is done" or "we have achieved parity". The second any organisation is created, self-perpetuation becomes top priority.

    They are run by a self-appointed minority. They are not accountable to anyone, not even to people/groups/interests they claim to represent. Dismissively suggesting I join such advocacy groups, is not the answer. There are so many claiming to speak on my behalf, there simply isn't enough hours in the day.

  8. Alan Johnson

    dangerous policy

    Banning recordings based on the content - fine in principle, care needs to be taken with satircal works etc but OK as long as rules clear and applied even handedly.

    Banning recordings by people with criminal convictions - Not a good idea. Reformed criminals and works unrelated to the crimes will be affected, but morally defensible if they had a fair trial.

    Banning recordings by people accused but found not guilty of crimes - Terrrible idea, completely wrong in principle, mob justice, completely unjustifiable.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: dangerous policy

      And how do you decide which death metal band is satyrical and which is clinically insane? The lyrics are the same.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: dangerous policy

      Spotify are not banning recordings: they are saying that they, Spotify, will not stream them in the worst case and will not add them to playlists they curate in lesser cases. This would be equivalent to banning only if Spotify were the only way for someone to access music, which they are not: they're not. even anywhere near being the only way someone can stream music.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: dangerous policy

      "Banning recordings based on the content"

      It makes me ask what their standard is - a subjective "feel" (that includes the political and/or religious bias of the reviewer), or a set of clear guidelines that are viewable online?

      I expect the 'feel' part because it EMPOWERS THEM more. A bit of payola to 'decide differently' maybe?

      Muse's "Uprising" - how would they view THAT one?

      Or, how about some retro punk from Star Trek IV (NSFW)? [that song was allegedly written and performed for the movie]

      There are clearly songs about killing cops, sexually abusing women, etc. that have gotten airplay for DECADES, so I wonder if a right-leaning political commentary song would be considered "hate" but those other examples would NOT be... by left-leaning "moderators".

      Dangerous policy indeed. We already KNOW what Faece-b[ook,itch] did to Diamond and Silk [referenced in a congressional hearing, even!] and I would venture to guess that Spotify will continue "more of the same". (t's how they think out there in Silly Valley, or in the case of Spotify, Sweden), after all...

      /me points out that in 2002, shortly after Sweden added "sexual orientation" to the list of things towards which there could be 'hate speech', a Swedish pastor was charged with the crime of 'hate speech' because of a sermon. I guess he was reading from Genesis about Sodom and Gomorrha or something. Whatever. Point is, the conviction WAS overturned, but it's the fact they CHARGED the guy with 'hate speech' for preaching his religion...

      Not like he's the Westboro Baptist "Church" or anything.

      On a side note, /me points out that, according to christianity, sin is universal, and really no one sin is worse than another (they're all bad). So assuming homosexual behavior is a sin, so is lying. And that's so universally practiced that EVERYBODY is going to hell! And I think lying does more collateral damage.

      In any case I don't think Spotify qualifies as "moral police", k-thx

    4. JMcL

      Re: dangerous policy

      Phil Spector would seem to be a case in point - despicable as a human being, but hugely influential and responsible for some utterly divine recordings

  9. Aladdin Sane

    Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

    That's The Clash banned then.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

      And the Sex Pistols, and...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

        I thought running off on tour with a 15 year old girl and being cruel to groupies was a core part of rock n roll.

        1. Aladdin Sane

          Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

          The Sex Pistols didn't do a song literally called "Hateful".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

            Let's not forget Mr Blobby. In fact I'm at a loss to think of a band who wouldn't be affected by this.

            I think we're going for a re-run of John Denver becoming the poster boy of banned music after people assumed his hiking song was about drugz,

        2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

          @Dave 126

          I could tell you some stories about rock stars, tour managers, and groupies,... if I could remember them all. Although one I do remember was told to me buy a guy that did some tour management for Dave Lee Roth. he was managing the UK leg of the Skyscraper tour. A well known groupie, who was not the youngest, brought her 15 year old daughter to the backstage door. The tour manager promptly told her to do one. Tour Managers have this thing about keeping the acts out of jail.

      2. Sgt_Oddball
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

        I was thinking Dead Kennedy's - Nazi punks f*@k off.

        Though, I would have thought that banning that would be surely be a contradiction?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Derek and Clive were originally just on tapes passed around bands that were using Virgin Studios - theybered never intended for release. Sexual violence, racist lyrics, mocking religion, all there. However, Peter Cook has made a huge contribution to tackling hypocrisy and corruption

  11. LucreLout

    Bye Bye Hip Hop

    The service has defined hateful as “content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”

    Given near all hip hop songs glorify violence, misogyny, drugs, and hate, I can only presume Spotify has now delisted the whole genre? I expect rather a few skinhead favourites will also disappear.

    1. Grikath

      Re: Bye Bye Hip Hop

      That would be the day....

    2. David Neil

      Re: Bye Bye Hip Hop

      Wonder if that includes Ben Folds cover of Bitches aint shit?

  12. sawatts

    Theres a big difference between "find offensive" (passive) and "being offensive" (active). Too often the former is taken as offensive - but I doubt that there is anything left that no one will find offensive.

    Now time to check if I can get Macc Lads on Spotify...

    1. DML71

      You can...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who’d a thunk it...

    ...the state didn’t even need to pay for the thought-police.

    Seriously, rate the music 18+ or allow users to opt in/out of artists, but we know where this is heading (RKelly and others paying Spotify to rethink)

  14. P. Lee

    >content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics...

    Part of me says, "at last, a statement so wide it doesn't create discrimination" and another little part of me dies knowing "incites hatred or violence" is, these days, interpreted as, "someone disagreed with me."

    I guess Spotify is going instrumental.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I guess Spotify is going instrumental.

      Dunno about that, I think the artist's behaviour thing might well result in Beethoven getting cut.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Wagner would be right out.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          well, Vivaldi was accused of having a somewhat scandalous relationship with a teenage opera singer [for whom he apparently wrote several operas for her to sing in]. He denied everything, of course, but who knows... and nowadays, isn't JUST A SCANDAL reason enough to BAN and DEFAME people? yeah, 'trial by fake news' indeed.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't believe anyone is qualified enough to act as my censor. Ultimately, something is going to offend someone at some point. If they head down that path, where does it end. Many famous songs have an element of offense, or rebellion against the norm. Art can be beautiful or offensive, placid or frightening and many other things juxtaposed or not.....but it's all about perspective. Even if something happens to offend someone, it should be the right of all people to appraise it. It should be up to people to make up their own minds; not for actors behind the scenes to prevent you from ever hearing it....lest you learn something about the world that might be controversial.

  16. SVV

    Mack the Knife

    Do some research on the long history of this song, and the reactions of various authorities and moral arbiters and artists to gain a complete understanding of all the arguments that will be rolled out and rehashed yet again regarding the issues of censorship, appropriate types of content and ultimate acnowledgement as literary works rather than dangers to society. Then you'll see how all the "what about rap, punk, metal, etc" arguments are direct parallels (the Nick Cave example given is directly and conciously in this lineage of this song, by the way). We are dealing with art and imagination here, and artists often imagine not nice things to make art from.

    As to acceptable artist behaviour, well the playlist is going to end up being pretty sparse if that particular criterion is to be used. Read an average rock band biography and you'll find plenty of just causes and impediments to pass the purity tests being set here. Many artists outside of the "rebellious" genres being far more atrocious than the "bad boys" of rock, who are actually nice well behaved boys in some cases.

    I presume Saint John Lennon and his popular beat combo will be next in line anyway, he having been a merciless mocker and insulter of the disabled in print, tv interviews, etc throughout these golden 1960s, as a starter example on his particular lengthy charge sheet if we are to suffer another round of trials in this long running series of prosecutions.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I presume Saint John Lennon and his popular beat combo will be next in line

    If it decreases the likelihood of hearing Imagine ever again I'm all for it.

    On a more serious note, how the hell they named a major airport after such an unpleasant, misogynistic, wife beating, offensive twunt like Lennon I'll never know.

    1. Timmy B


      I raise my glass to you, Sir.

    2. TheProf

      how the hell they named a major airport

      Well obviously it was because the logo was already designed so they saved a lot of money straight away.

      There are other plans for Beatle renaming:

      Lime Street Station is to become Ringo Starr's End of the Line.

      The Two Mersey Tunnels will be now known as the George Harrison's Underground and

      Mersey Ferries are becoming Uncle Paul's Great Big Mystical Yellow Ferry Riving Crossings Ltd.

      Gerry Marsden is pressing for the Ferris wheel to be named after him but it's a rather slender hope.

  18. Stratman

    Is the full stop in R. Kelly meant to be pronounced and if it is, is it "full stop" or the more edgy "stop"?

    1. John G Imrie

      He's American

      so it will be 'period'.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: He's American

        @John G Imrie

        and I bet a period never stopped him.

  19. Timmy B

    If we don't want to see this kind of commercial censorship then we should refuse to use services that do it. They are fully within their rights to host whatever songs they like. We should vote with our feet.

    Very seriously considering leaving all these streaming services, buying CDs and creating my own personal one.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      @Timmy B

      You can store your music up at Google Play Music,... seems I have a bunch of stuff uploaded there, although it needs a refresh as it's missing a few albums I bought recently.

      1. Timmy B

        Grunty - I wonder how long it'll be until they pull this like Amazon did. I was happily doing exactly that with Amazon. I have been trying with OneDrive and Groove and that seems to be doing great so far. Except I can't find a really good android player that will play off of OneDrive. I also wonder if there is an alternative that will work with Alexa too. The other half really like alexa (we did some comparisons to google) and it's all over the place here.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          re: One drive.

          @Timmy B

          I had some backups to One Drive, ... photos, but they pruned the allowance some time back and that put me over,... so I don't really use it any more. Didn't think you can play directly from One Drive? Music counts against your storage allowance too iirc.

          I doubt Google will ever drop your music allowance... I presume they are using the data for market anaylisis, training their AI, etc. It's cheap real world experience for them.

  20. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    Bye-bye Relax....

    ... dont't do it!

  21. Rich0980

    Spotify isn't censoring

    @Timmy B

    Spotify is not banning or censoring music, they're just not promoting sensitive artists via playlists etc. So yep, you can even search and listen to Gary Glitter on Spotify, just don't expect to see him on their official playlists. Ultimately, I subscribe for the music on Spotify, not the playlists - that is just a bonus.

    1. Timmy B

      Re: Spotify isn't censoring

      That's why I called it commercial censorship. If they don't promote then there will be less money going to the artists - effectively halting their careers and removing their music.

  22. O RLY

    Still better to buy

    than to stream. When the censors (spotify, apple, google, amazon, facebook, or government) come for the streams, they can't as readily destroy my CDs or MP3s. The flag represents another way to get prohibited/censored music.

    El Reg, thanks for the Nick Cave tip. Great track. I think I'll fire up some (German) BPjM-sanctioned Die Ärzte or maybe some 2 Live Crew after that.

  23. Oflife

    I take it they will expunge most rap then?

    The lyrics are hardly empowering for women or decent cops.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: I take it they will expunge most rap then?

      Well, if misogyny* were taken as seriously as racism a lot of rap would have already been consigned to the void.

      *I don't mean mild sexism but actual hatred or contempt for women.

  24. Dieter Haussmann

    I'm a live and let live kind of guy and I don't agree with this censorship.

    Also, what is officially deemed offensive is a list that grows daily.

    I don't use Spotify much and only have the free version and I see some really old songs have been removed from playlists because of this. They still exist padding the playlist but the artist and song name are blank and they don't play.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’ve just reported ABBA...

    Why? Because I am a twat.

  26. Richard 15

    So, Rap music is pretty much dead then, huh?

    Entire genre's will get removed.

    Rap music contains so much stuff that offends many.

    There are a lot of "artists" that will have nothing available to play.

    1. Timmy B

      Re: So, Rap music is pretty much dead then, huh?

      This is the worry, Richard.

      Who decides the precedence of offense?

      Punks take offence at country music.

      Rappers take offence at Punks.

      Country music fans take offence at Rappers.

      Everyone is puzzled by goths.

      It's a bit tongue in cheek but you get the idea - we all take offence at something. In a free society we are all free to say things others find offensive. This is freedom and the gist of JP in the C4 interview.

  27. DeeCee

    So half of metal will be out.... FML

    sjw trash found another thing to ruin

  28. Ben Rosenthal

    and I'd only just rediscovered The Mac Lads...

  29. ForthIsNotDead

    Dire Straits Banned

    The service has defined hateful as “content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”

    "See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup?

    Yeah buddy, that's his own hair!

    That little faggot got his own jet airplane.

    That little faggot he's a millionaire."

    Of course, the fact that Knopfler was being ironic will be lost to the baying mobs, just as it was lost to the baying mobs in Canada.

  30. TechDrone
    Big Brother

    So I guess The Wankin Song will be banned

    And the pamela anderson song And old macdonal.. Ah well, it won't be the first place Mike has been banned from though.

    "I had a dream the other night, a dream you couldn't beat..."

  31. Lily Allen

    Yes, many rap are not playable in my playlists. I am going to try DRmare and use it to download all of my tracks from Spotify. It is the best way to keep my favourite songs in case aof being banned.

  32. Lisa Brown

    I can't agree more. Many of my rap collections in the early years now can't be playable. And I found a trick to back up them by using AudFree Spotify Music Converter. The converted songs can be transferred to USB or other hard disks for keeping.

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