It’s been just over a month since the ground-breaking documentary, Surviving R. Kelley, was aired on Lifetime, detailing sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly. This story took off like a wild fire and for several weeks became a major talking point on social media. Artists such as Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga, and Céline Dion, who were once affiliated with R. Kelly, swarmed to Instagram and Twitter to make statements apologizing for supporting the artist in past years. This made the on-going social conversation grow even more, followed by many artists removing their collaborations with R. Kelly from all music streaming and purchasing platforms.
With all of this being at the forefront of the media, it was a shocking to all to see that Kelly’s music streams had increased by over 116% within a week of the docuseries airing. R. Kelley’s music generated nearly 4.3 million new streams within those seven days alone, which is equivalent to over $30,000 in royalties. This left many people bewildered, questioning the spike in streams and wanting to understand why consumers were still showing him support. American actress Jada Pinkett voiced her own confusion through an Instagram story she posted on her page – attached below.
It the era of social media, companies are become more and more wary in regard to what people are talking about. It’s never been so easy for one to share their opinions online to what seems to be an unlimited audience. In relation to R. Kelly, many companies were forced to scramble together a plan to address the situation before consumers would begin to make up their own fictional narratives. Sony’s RCA, Kelly’s record label, was the first to respond by quickly drawing up plans to drop the artist from their roster, stating that they will no longer be supporting R. Kelly in any aspect. Spotify then responded by implementing a new feature, called Mute, which allows one to essentially block an artist on the streaming service. This prevents an artists’ music from reaching an individual on their platform, whether that be appearing on curated playlists, radio play, or recommended songs. Spotify’s decision to implement this feature was influenced by their previous attempt to remove hateful artists (R. Kelly included) back in 2018 under their hateful conduct policy, which was met with major backlash from high profile artists such as Kendrick Lamar. With this new feature, however, artists are able to keep their music on the platform, while consumers now have the power to theoretically remove the artist themselves from their end. Within weeks of this feature’s release, Apple Music, Pandora, and Tidal implemented similar features that were aimed at addressing the R. Kelly accusations.
With the conversation surrounding R. Kelly started to dwindle down, it goes to show the power that social media plays in the lives of consumers. Everyone is able to be a part of the conversation and bring issues they deem important to light. In this instance, it was an issue that truly needed to be addressed and discussed to make a lasting impact. These cases happen more often than people would like to believe, but bringing them to the forefront of a social media discussion is a step towards being more transparent about the issue.