R. Kelly Found Guilty: Will Artist Be Removed From Music Services?

© REUTERS / Tatyana MakeyevaA customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at "re:Store" Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018.
A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at re:Store Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.09.2021
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The musician was found guilty on all counts of racketeering charges in a sex trafficking trial on Monday, by a unanimous decision of the jury. Kelly now faces a sentence of up to 100 years in prison, with 20 years for racketeering and ten years for each conviction of sex trafficking.
After the New York jury found the famous R&B singer R. Kelly guilty, the hashtag #MuteRKelly again went viral on social networks, with calls to deprive the performer of income from the sale of his music, or even remove the performer's tracks from the leading music services.
Numerous human rights organizations, activists, and sympathizers supported the jury's verdict, lauding the results of the long litigation over the charges against the musician, especially those Black women who were not afraid to publicly speak out against Kelly.
In recent years, a number of public protests have taken place across the US and the world following the rise of the movement against Kelly. The singer, nevertheless, continued to perform in several cities despite the controversy. The movement to "mute" the musician has even attracted the attention of a number of celebrities, including the founder of the Me Too movement, Tarana Burke.
But it wasn't until the bombshell documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly, released in early 2019, that greater attention was paid to the scandal surrounding the singer, which led to Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, and The Pussycat Dolls, who recorded the duets with Kelly, publicly apologizing and removing their songs from streaming platforms.
During that time, R. Kelly's financial ties with Apple, Spotify, Ticketmaster, Sony Music, and other firms were heavily criticized by another prominent movement against harassment, Time's Up.
However, the outcome of the lengthy court case raises a legitimate question: in the era of cancel culture, is it possible to completely boycott a convicted artist on music services that continue to not only support Kelly but also provide millions of people access to his music?
Well, back in 2018, R. Kelly's music was reportedly removed from Spotify's playlists following a chorus of voices calling for the artist to be canceled. This example was also followed by Apple and Pandora's playlists, despite the absence of a court sentence. The issue of completely removing access to the musician's tracks, however, was not brought up.
Kelly's popular hits such as "I Believe I Can Fly" can still be found in themed playlists on Spotify and on Apple Music, although several major editorial playlists do not include his songs even if they are offered by searching for the name of the artist or his songs.
The case of Kelly is indeed interesting, particularly given the huge public pressure to boycott the work of the convicted musician. Still, there are past examples of art produced by convicts continuing to be publicly accessed on music services, and some cases without even calls for removal.
No Cancel Culture for Charles Manson
The famous American criminal and leader of the cult known as the Manson Family, Charles Manson, whose followers committed a series of brutal murders in the summer of 1969, including the murder of actress Sharon Tate, saw one of his songs covered by the Beach Boys, and released several recordings over the years while still in jail. All of Manson's official records are available on iTunes and Apple music.
The movement to boycott has also avoided targeting the songs and produced tracks of another convicted murderer, Phil Spector, who produced and co-wrote many songs for famous musicians of the 1960s, including the Beatles.
The numerous accusations against Michael Jackson and court cases during his lifetime along with the new accusations made in the 2019 film 'Leaving Neverland,' also did not have a huge impact on the availability and popularity of the artist's tracks in the largest streaming services and stores. Although, back in 2019 following the initial backlash from the documentary's release, some radio stations, performers, and businesses abandoned the use of the artist's music.
Moreover, music services have not restricted in any way the songs performed by Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, accused of sexual harassment in 2017, or songs by rock musician Marilyn Manson, who faced multiple accusations earlier this year.
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