Why Spotify won’t drop his music

Kanye West: Why Spotify won't drop his music

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Photo: Roy Rochlin (Getty Images)

Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, is finally facing tangible consequences for the hateful rhetoric he has been spouting (for years, but particularly recently). A laundry list of organizations has cut ties with him so far, including Adidas; the loss of this partnership removed Ye from his cherished billionaire status. But one important pillar of his empire remains, and that’s his music.

When it comes to streaming, Spotify won’t be making any moves against the rapper. CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters that Ye’s recent antisemitic comments are “just awful” and would qualify for removal under the platform’s hate speech policies. But because those sentiments aren’t contained in his songs, he’s safe: “It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy. It’s up to his label, if they want to take action or not.” If the label did want to remove his albums, “Obviously we’ll respect their wishes.”

Ye’s former record label, Def Jam, has indeed disavowed him. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the label said, “Def Jam’s relationship with Ye as a recording artist, Def Jam’s partnership with the GOOD Music label venture and Ye’s merchandise agreement with Bravado all ended in 2021. There is no place for antisemitism in our society. We are deeply committed to combating antisemitism and every other form of prejudice.”

However, Def Jam does not appear to be making any moves to excise Ye’s albums from streaming platforms. Frankly, the action seems unlikely. Corporate greed aside (would any label be willing to leave all that revenue on the table?), it would be an unprecedented move, especially on this scale. Corporations in general tend to be squirrely about censorship—just look at how many outrageous and offensive things Ye had to say publicly in order to face true financial blowback.

For an example on Spotify specifically, look no further than Joe Rogan, who continued to enjoy the platform’s support even after a major outcry for his anti-vaccination comments, plus a highly publicized montage of racial slurs. “While I strongly condemn what Joe has said… I want to make one point very clear–I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek said at the time (while quietly removing dozens of episodes of his podcast from the service). The same seems to be true about Ye… at least for his music.

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