Spotify Drops ‘Hate Conduct’ Policy for Artist Promotions After Controversy

Streaming-music provider says it will still remove content that includes 'hate speech'

Spotify has swiftly reversed course on its recently introduced policy to ban artists who have engaged in “hate conduct” from promoted playlists, announcing Friday that it was dropping the plan.

“[W]hile we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines,” the company said in a statement.

However, Spotify said it was keeping the ban against “hate content” in place.

“Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the company said. “As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard. We’re not talking about offensive, explicit, or vulgar content – we’re talking about hate speech.”

On May 11, Spotify announced the new two-part policy against “hate content” and “hateful conduct” regarding the artists it chooses to promote — and was met with an immediate backlash in the music biz. Last week, reports emerged that Spotify was rethinking the decision to ban certain artists from playlists based on their “hateful conduct.” The company reinstated rapper XXXTentacion, but not another artist, R. Kelly.

CEO Daniel Ek, speaking at an industry conference this week, admitted Spotify botched the rollout of the new policy. “We rolled this out wrong and could have done a much better job,” Ek said Wednesday night, speaking at the Code Conference in a keynote Q&A.

In explaining the move Friday, Spotify said the “hate conduct” provision applied only to “rare cases of the most extreme artist controversies.” The company admitted that the ambiguous wording caused concern that an artist could be blocked from a promotional Spotify playlist based on unproven allegations, thereby potentially hurting their careers. Spotify also said some artists “even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them.”

“Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct,” the company said.

In its statement Friday, Spotify said, “We will continue to seek ways to impact the greater good and further the industry we all care so much about We believe Spotify has an opportunity to help push the broader music community forward through conversation, collaboration and action. We’re committed to working across the artist and advocacy communities to help achieve that.”

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