“All publicity is good publicity”
On Monday, multi-platinum R&B artist R. Kelly was found guilty of all nine counts against him, including racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Law.
The guilty verdict follows years of sexual assault charges dating back to the early 1990s. Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly”, coupled with the rise of the #MeToo movement, has intensified calls for justice against the 54-year-old singer.
Additionally, the #MuteRKelly campaign, first launched in 2017, called for the removal of the artist’s songs from radio and music apps. The campaign then led to several canceled concert tours.
Still, a looming question is whether the major music platforms will be phasing out Kelly’s tracks for good. The data suggests that recent headlines have done little to counteract its wide popularity in streaming, especially among younger listeners.
In May 2018, Spotify (SPOT) removed the artist from their curated playlists, but left their music available on the platform. At the time, Spotify said it wanted its “editorial decisions – what we choose to program – reflect our values.”
However, according to a recent report by music analysis platform Chartmetric, R. Kelly still appears on a significant number of Spotify editorial playlists (around 300) with a peak in additions occurring around August 2020.
In addition to Spotify, Apple Music (AAPL) and Amazon Music (AMZN) also saw playlists appear with peaks in spring 2021 and September 2020, respectively.
Overall, Charmetric said that “any kind of attention will always justify a short-term spike in measures across different platforms. In the long term, if consumption is really affected by these unsavory news events, we would see a drop in activity over time. “
“Instead, it seems the old industry adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’ holds on,” the company added.
His tracks have also remained on the US iTunes R & B / Soul charts since 2018. “I Believe I Can Fly” peaked at # 6 in January 2019, following the release of “Surviving R. Kelly”.
Since his September 27 conviction, R. Kelly’s editorial playlists have remained relatively stagnant. Still, the event appears to have reminded some Spotify users to add R. Kelly to their own personal playlists.
According to the data, 300-400 user-generated lists featuring the singer appeared between September 27-29.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s Spotify Popularity Index – a standardized metric the platform uses to organize playlists – has fallen from 77 to 69 (out of 100) since March 2018. However, that popularity level is remained roughly constant since that time.
For context, Kelly maintains a similar level of popularity of Spotify with other high-profile artists including Will Smith (72), Zendaya (73) and Fifth Harmony (75).
Yet after August 2021, R. Kelly’s monthly unique listeners slowly declined by a few thousand per day, from 5.2 million to the current number of 4.8 million.
R.Kelly’s TikTok boom
The artist’s presence on social media sites – including Instagram (FB), TikTok and YouTube (GOOGL) – appeared to increase over time, Chartmetric noted, with young women making up a significant portion of her audience.
And in the wake of Kelly’s sex crime charges in July 2019, her views on her YouTube channel and her subscriber numbers have skyrocketed. The singer also saw a big spike in Instagram followers in January 2019 following the release of “Surviving R. Kelly”.
But TikTok could be the platform where the singer is most present.
Some of TikTok’s biggest influencers, including Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, have continued to highlight Kelly’s music in their videos.
“I Believe I Can Fly”, “I’m a Flirt” and “Ignition” are his most popular tracks on TikTok – with views of TikTok videos using his tracks exceeding those of Frank Ocean and approaching those of J. Cole.
Kelly, who now faces life imprisonment, is expected to be sentenced on May 4.
Alexandra is an entertainment producer and correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @ alliecanal8193
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