Since the premiere of the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, the internet has been ablaze with users are reacting to the allegations of sexual abuse laid out against the singer. But Kelly isn’t just trending on social media — people are apparently listening to him more, too, with Spotify reportedly tracking an increase in the singer’s streams.
According to The Blast, streams of Kelly’s music on Spotify have increased by 16% since the debut of Surviving R. Kelly on Thursday night. Refinery29 has reached out to Spotify to confirm, along with Apple Music and YouTube for streaming data on their platforms.
As of this writing, Kelly has over 5.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and more than 1.7 million subscribers. These numbers from the platform indicate millions of listeners have chosen to overlook Kelly’s sexual abuse and predation in favor of listening to the “Ignition (Remix)” one more time.
One of the most direct ways to have a lasting impact on Kelly is also one of the simplest: stop playing his music. Streaming any song in Kelly’s catalog makes him money. In doing so, it also directly condones Kelly’s past actions and sends the message that this behavior is in any way acceptable. It tells his record label, publisher, and tour promoters that fans will continue to fund Kelly’s career, regardless of his alleged abuses of women. (Kelly denies the charges against him.)
RCA Records has consistently refused to drop Kelly from its record label. Allegations and accounts of Kelly’s sexual abuse are constantly challenged, even when eyewitnesses or evidence indicate otherwise. Our culture’s systemic devaluation of Black girls enables Kelly’s predatory behavior to proceed uncovered and unchecked. And even now, with the overwhelming success and attention given to Surviving R. Kelly — Deadline reports that the series premiere drew in 1.9 million viewers, becoming Lifetime’s best performance in two years — series creator Dream Hampton revealed that more than 50 celebrities were approached for an interview about Kelly, yet declined to speak out.
A controversial hateful conduct policy last year, in part spurred by Time’s Up’s attempted #MuteRKelly boycott, tried to limit Kelly’s reach on the streaming service by removing him from its playlists. But that effort failed to make any real dent in his Spotify streaming numbers, with the Associated Press reporting that there was even a small growth in listeners. The policy was rolled back after three weeks, during which Spotify was criticized by both fans and major music industry players.
Denouncing Kelly on social media is just one first step. For Kelly feel any real repercussions — for him to be really, truly canceled — means that his music needs to go, too.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).