Radio Stations & DJs Are Playing Less Michael Jackson — But Fans Are Going Out Of Their Way To Listen

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Leaving Neverland, the two-part Michael Jackson documentary on HBO, may have alerted the public to sexual abuse allegations against the singer (which his estate denies), but it hasn't stopped fans from listening to his music. Despite initial reports, Billboard writes that Jackson's combined album and song sales increased 10% following the doc, going from 8,000 to 9,000 units week over week. Similarly, on-demand streams increased by 6%.
If anything, listeners are determined to hear the disgraced artist's tunes, perhaps out of defiance or a feeling that the accusations are unfounded. It also could have something to do with the fact that Michael Jackson's official YouTube channel dropped two concert videos the nights the documentary aired, the just shy of 1 million views of which would have not only distracted people from the documentary but contributed to his on-demand streaming bump.
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One aspect of the industry does appear to be changing in the wake of the expanded allegations: radio. In the same report, Billboard says Jackson's airplay fell by 13% March 3 to the 5, with the biggest dip of 18% happening the day after part two of the doc aired. In fact, BBC Radio 2 and a handful of radio stations in New Zealand and Canada have removed Jackson from their playlists entirely, but other DJs, like WKTU's Bodega Brad, aren't sure where they stand.
"Currently, I have not received anything asking me not to play him," he told Refinery29. "I am trying to avoid offending anyone and only playing MJ in certain situations."
He deferred to the station's owner, iHeartMedia, who did not immediately return to Refinery29's request for comment.
Whether or not to silence disgraced artists has been a debate that's regained ferver after the recent #MeToo movement in the entertainment industry, the most recent reaction being #MuteRKelly. This drop in airplay appears to be the warning shot ahead of what could be a similar backlash, but diehard fans clearly won't let MJ go down without a fight.
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).
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