'We rolled this out wrong': Spotify CEO regrets the way R Kelly and XXXTentacion were banned

'We rolled this out wrong': Spotify CEO regrets the way R Kelly and XXXTentacion were banned

Spotify Daniel Ek


Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

  • Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the way the firm banned musicians R Kelly and XXXTentacion from its playlists was badly handled.
  • R Kelly and XXXTentacion were booted from Spotify's playlists earlier this month, but XXXTentacion was reinstated while he awaits trial for charges of domestic abuse.
  • Ek didn't say if R Kelly would be reinstated but explained the ban came from new policies around hate speech and hateful conduct.
  • He said it was difficult to act as the "moral police" for art.

Spotify's chief executive Daniel Ek has said he regretted the way his company banned musicians R Kelly and XXXTentacion without really explaining why.

The company removed R Kelly from its playlists earlier this month in the wake of allegations that he had run sex cults involving young women. It also banned and then reinstated XXXTentacion, who is awaiting trial for charges of domestic abuse and witness harassment, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

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To be clear, neither artist was banned entirely from Spotify, but both were removed from its playlists.

Speaking at the Code Conference on Wednesday, Ek didn't give an update on whether R Kelly would be reinstated, but did say he regretted the way the whole incident was handled.




Rapper XXXTentacion.

The ban came from two new internal policies, he said.

"One was about hate speech, and I think that's less controversial," Ek said. "Then there's the other one about conduct and, just being very honest, we were very vague."

Here's what Spotify has to say officially about hateful conduct:

"We don't censor content because of an artist's or creator's behavior, but we want our editorial decisions - what we choose to program - to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator."


Ek said the company could have handled the communication around this policy better: "The whole thing was to make sure we didn't have hate speech, it was never about punishing one individual artist or even naming one individual artist. So I think coming back to my responsibility as a leader, I think we rolled this out wrong and we could have done a better job."

He said it was difficult for Spotify to act as the "moral police," adding that editorialising music took the company into tricky legal turf, like whether a musician had been charged with an offence. "We're a platform, we want art, we want a lot of diverse opinions," he said.

There are some things which are obvious hate speech though.

"There are certain things where I think the rules should be pretty clear," Ek said. "If you are talking about being KKK [Ku Klux Klan] and doing that stuff, it's obvious we don't want that on the service."