Did Kendrick Lamar strong arm Spotify into walking back its artist conduct policy?

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Spotify can’t seem to stay out of the headlines as of late. When the music streaming service updated its behavioral policies and made the editorial decision to remove R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from it’s “algorithmic playlists,” due to the artists’ histories of sexual assault allegations, many voices sprang forth in response to the controversial move.

First, the US-based women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet, came forth to urge Spotify to hold other artists accused of sexual assault and/or gender-based violence accountable as well. They named Chris BrownRed Hot Chili PeppersNelly, and Eminem in their open letter to the music streaming giant. Spotify responded in a statement,

“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,” Spotify said.

Naturally, the hip-hop community went up in arms over the streaming service’s decision. After the policy was enacted, it was reported that XXXTentacion was projected to lose $60,000 a year because of the platform’s removal of his content. In a backwards move, R. Kelly’s streaming rates actually made a slight climb in numbers — from 6.5 million weekly streams to 6.7 million. Now Bloomberg reports that Grammy award winner Kendrick Lamar called Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek. and Head of AR, Troy Carer, to threaten to pull his music from the platform if the policy remained in tact.

And it worked. Spotify has walked back on its current policy.

The new policy arrives in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp social media movements, which led to the more recent #MuteRKelly initiative. Yet, whether they consciously or knowingly did so, Spotify injected themselves into a controversial cultural moment surrounding sexual assault — even as employees themselves have begun publicly rejecting the policy. Whether the streaming giant is in the right or wrong remains up for debate, but allowing a single artist to strong arm an entire digital platform, similar to the way Taylor Swift steered Apple Music’s initial launch, sets a menacing precedent.

H/T: High Snobiety.

Frank Ocean’s music gets in-depth analysis in Spotify Studios’ Dissect podcast, stream the first episode now

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Over the course of two seasons, Spotify’s award-winning Dissect podcast broke down Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly with the hopes to develop a deeper understanding of the artists and what their music conveys about the human experience.

Accordingly, Frank Ocean’s Blonde is the new subject for Dissect’s third season.

Season three of Dissect will see the host, Cole Cuchna, spending hundreds of hours breaking the lyrical and musical detail of Ocean with a six-episode mini-series on Channel Orange, followed by eleven episodes on Blonde. With an analytical, All Songs Considered NPR-style, and a deep love and appreciation for his music, Cuchna surpasses all previous delves into Ocean’s life work.

“I have a soft spot for artists who use their platform to challenge and progress the art form, not rest on the success they’ve had in the past,” Dissect’s host Cole Cuchna told Pigeons & Planes, “Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean have all done that, and we absolutely need these types of artists in the world, especially when they have such a massive reach.

“Frank Ocean has an incredibly interesting story. As I was researching his music and his background, I realized that his art and his personal actions move in parallel in pursuit of the same thing: truth and authenticity.”

The first episode of season three, which begins by discussing Ocean’s early life in New Orleans, his move to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina, and moves into his landmark 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, is available for streaming now.

Listen to it here.

H/T: Pigeons & Planes

All eyes on Spotify: The music streaming giant is called to continue removing artists accused of sexual misconduct

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Following last week’s removal of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from Spotifys “editorial or algorithmic playlists,” as part of the platform’s new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy, many voices have sprouted up in response to the controversial move.

To some, the move seems altruistic and honorable. In an age of conscious consumerism, media companies have not only the right, but a duty to uphold the values and beliefs that align with the people who make up the organization. This is the side that Spotify falls into alignment with, as Spotify’s VP/Head of Content, Jonathan Princetold, told Billboard in a statement:

“I think that, frankly, all of us have become increasingly aware of the responsibility that we have when we make recommendations about content, and particularly when we’re doing that in a way that may send signals to our audience about what we believe and what we value.”

On the other hand, proponents of the editorial decision find it contentious and problematic to single out specific artists while leaving others unscathed. In the case of R. Kelly, whose “After Party” tour was cancelled in late 2017 amid allegations that the artist was running a sex cult, a representative from Kelly’s camp told BuzzFeed News that he “supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement.” The rep alluded to the singling out of Kelly as unfair, considering the artist has never been charged with any of these crimes, adding,

“Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit,” the statement reads. “It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers. Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature. Mr. Kelly falls into none of these categories, and it is unfortunate and shortsighted that Spotify fails to recognize this.”

Now, a US-based women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet, has come forth to urge the music streaming giant to do the same with other artists accused of sexual assault and/or gender-based violence. In an open letter, UltraViolet executive director Shaunna Thomas pinpoints artists with a history of sexual abuse, including Chris Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nelly, Eminem, Don Henley of The Eagles, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and Ted Nugent, citing them as artists “who continue to profit from [Spotify’s] promotion.”

“Every time a famous individual continues to be glorified despite allegations of abuse, we wrongly perpetuate silence by showing survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence that there will be no consequences for abuse,” writes Thomas. “That has a cultural effect far beyond one individual artist.”

Spotify’s next moves are unknown. But, as many new voices continue sprouting new (and hopefully fruitful) conversations, it’s clear that the issue is a tiny microcosm of the identity-based movement in American culture and politics. At the very least, Spotify’s editorial choice has sparked some much-needed debate surrounding issues of sexual misconduct in the music industry, as well as the ongoing related issue of unequal gender representation.

H/T: Consequence of Sound 

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Elon Musk blasts streaming services for “crazy low payouts”

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Music creatives have long gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to music streaming royalties. Once the honey pot is divvied up between streaming platforms and music labels, artists and songwriters walk away with only a small piece of the pie.

Mercurial tech baron and founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, is the latest powerful voice to recently speak out on the issue of unequal distribution. The issue is no new struggle in contemporary capitalism, either. The fact of the matter is: when big business is involved, individuals lose out.

But it seems Musk now has a direct stake in the issue considering he’s now dating Canadian singer/songwriter, Grimes. The couple made their first public appearance as a couple at the Met Gala last week in New York City.

The conversation arose over Twitter when Musk was asked about his favorite Grimes song; for which, by the way, he has two:

One conscientious fan tweeted the tech baron wondering which streaming platform fans could engage with in order to most directly benefit Grimes financially.

Musk responded with an infographic showing Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube as the bottom three platforms in terms of gross payout per stream. XboxRhapsody and Tidal are among the top when it comes to artist payouts, with Apple MusicAmazon, Deezer, and Google falling somewhere in the middle.

While the issue of online streaming payouts continues to be a new frontier for the music industry — especially as it converges with tech giants and new platforms who want a piece of the pie — Musk should be commended for bringing the issue into public conversation. At the very least, it is a genuine show of online activism when powerful tech elites raise their voices for unheard, underpaid artistic creatives who often get no say in the matter.

Spotify halts promotion of R. Kelly’s music amid sexual misconduct allegations

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Spotify plans to remove R. Kelly’s music from its algorithmic and official playlists under its new hate content and hateful conduct policy, a set of guidelines that enables Spotify to remove “hate content,” defined by the streaming service 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.”

Although R. Kelly’s music does not promote “hatred or violence against a group,” the recent accusations of sexual misconduct on the singer’s behalf, alleged by several young women who claim that Kelly coerced them into being members of a “cult,” violate the “hateful conduct” branch of the policy. “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,” Spotify’s policy states.

Spotify will consequently refrain from supporting R. Kelly’s music. “His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it. 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,” Spotify said.

Kelly has since denied the allegations. Kelly’s representative told BuzzFeed News that Kelly “supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement.” “We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals—and in this case, it is unjust and off-target,” the rep added.

Photo Credit: BBC

H/T: The Hill

Spotify tests new ‘Friends Weekly’ playlist comprised of your friends’ favorite songs

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Some Spotify listeners might have noticed a new weekly playlist feature appear on their apps.

Although the playlist function remains in testing stages, Spotify has created “Friends Weekly,” a playlist featuring song selections curated from your friends’ recently played Spotify tracks, available to a group of subscribers. The feature was originally perceptible to a smaller number of Spotify users months prior, but has since been extended to more listeners.

Further incentivizing engagement is Spotify’s addition of a separate assortment of playlists titled “Friends’ Discover Weekly,” which will allow streamers to take a peek at the songs that make up their Spotify friends’ Discover Weekly playlists.

Spotify users currently have the capability to follow their friends’ Discover Weekly playlists —assuming that the given friend has made the playlist public — but will now be able to browse their friends’ Discover Playlists without needing to search for that specific friend. Like “Friends Weekly,” the row of “Friends’ Discover Weekly” playlists is also in developmental stages and will remain available to a select number of Spotify users, for now.

Photo Credit: u/reCAPTCHAmePLZ via Reddit

H/T: The Verge

Instagram and Spotify introduce new story feature to simplify music sharing

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The days of screenshotting that track that you’ve been digging in order to share it on your Instagram story are over.

Instagram and Spotify introduced a new music sharing feature that allows Spotify listeners to share the song that they’re currently streaming with their Instagram followers. Spotify users need only to select the ‘Share to Instagram Story’ option from the ‘share’ dropdown menu to do so. Sharing a song unlocks exclusive art stickers specific to each song, album, artist, and playlist. Instagram users can then add the stickers to their music post to further customize the story addition.

The new ‘Share to Instagram Story’ button streamlines the music sharing process, one that is key to many Instagram account holders’ interaction with the app. “The music world lives on in Instagram–three out of the top five most-followed accounts belong to music artists,” Instagram said in a statement. “Music fans come to Instagram to express themselves and discover new content from their favorite artists and we’re making that easier with the ability to share directly from Spotify.”

When followers view a given song story, they will be presented with the ability to listen to the tune on their own Spotify app, via a ‘play’ button visible in the upper lefthand corner. “It adds a whole new level to music discovery since friends will be able to get a glimpse of what you’ve been listening to–and you can do the same with them,” Spotify said of the feature.

Spotify intends to extend the function to Facebook Stories at a later point.

H/T: NME

Upcoming Spotify changes give free-tier users more accessibility

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Although Spotify has declined to comment, there have been reports of forthcoming changes to the music platform’s free user membership involving an updated user interface to select listeners. These UI changes include the option to stream songs on demand in playlists, which would amp up the free membership’s features, making the account almost as accessible as having Spotify Premium.

Bloomberg reported last week that these updates would have an effect on mobile users, and a flyer for the company’s upcoming April 24 event recently confirmed that modifications were coming to Spotify mobile.

Although there will be several modifications to the current free subscription of Spotify, one of the most enjoyable new options will be to play certain playlists on demand. Previously with the free membership, all playlists could only be played in shuffle mode.

Spotify is redesigning other aspects of the app as well. The free version of Spotify significantly changed the search page, which has boxed prompts to previews under playlist icons, so users can get a sense of which types of songs are curated in the playlists.

Unfortunately, one feature that Spotify was testing earlier this month, voice control, does not appear to be included in the update.

H/TThe Verge

Spotify and Hulu to offer a joint subscription service at $12.99

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Hulu, Spotify

Potential new Spotify subscribers will have greater incentive to pay for a subscription given the music streaming platform’s latest collaboration with Hulu.

Arriving this summer, the joint subscription will offer users ad-free Spotify streaming and movies on Hulu’s ad-supported platform, for $12.99 a month. The package’s price will be attractive to those who concurrently subscribe to both services separately — Spotify collects $9.99 a month from its users, while Hulu charges $7.99 a month. The dual plan is modeled after Spotify and Hulu’s pre-existing combined plan. One currently available only to students enrolled at accredited colleges and universities, Spotify and Hulu market the plan to students for just $4.99 a month.

Hulu has since rolled out a 99-cent trial subscription that will serve as a preliminary to the bundled subscription. Those new to Hulu can now take advantage of a three-month ad-supported plan for the three months leading up to the debut of the joint subscription.

H/T: LA Times

Could Spotify be developing its own unique listening device?

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Spotify

Spotify may have something up its sleeve.

Following the streaming giant’s colossal debut in the public market, it seems the company’s next move may involve an entrance into the physical listening realm.

Although Spotify’s yet to confirm the device or its development, it’s the next logical move for the company, considering they’ve recently been testing voice commands for their app. It would also explain why several users received mysterious ads for a new device. Whether it be in the form of a speaker, rivaling Apple‘s, a device similar to Google‘s Alexa assistant, or an in-car device — all of which are likely possibilities or were teased with mysterious ads — one thing’s for certain: the company will only continue to change how millions of users around the world listen to music.

Even though Spotify’s denied claims of the device on its support forums, it’ll be making a special news announcement on April 24 in New York — the perfect time for an unveiling, so all hope is not lost.

H/T: The Verge