Music can make people nostalgic, and as for myself, I am the type of person who will make numerous playlists with music that meant a lot to me growing up and music that was significantly popular, catchy, and of course, occasionally trashy.
Going through my playlists recently, I discovered that my sense of nostalgia had changed considerably. People using media as an opportunity to inform the world of particular musicians’ silenced pasts has led me to ask: should I still listen to that musician? Does listening to them mean I support the artist in any way?
Making the decision to listen to a musician with a controversial background has become a moral dilemma for many individuals. If my decision is to no longer to listen to artists who are accused of or known for, immoral behaviour, that does not necessarily mean others have to do the same.
Since the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland came out discussing allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson, many major radio networks have decided to ban his songs from being played. In an interview with Mediaworks New Zealand, content director Leon Wratt said We’re just merely trying to make sure that our radio stations are going to play the music that people want to hear.” Although there have been similar responses across the world, it isn’t the first time we have seen this reaction happen.
Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, a politicized engagement on matters of sexual assault, politics has disrupted a number of industries in the hope of making sure that perpetrators of such heinous actions are held accountable. Social media has allowed these discussions to become more visible to everyone. This space allows both people and businesses to share their own views and make sure their digital identities align with their own morals.
Networks are now choosing to closely monitor their audience’s reactions to individual artists who have been accused. They then decide if they should share the artist’s content, creating a significant point of difference for whether or not people will still engage with the network.
However, not everyone is on board with the idea of these companies banning artists. In particular, when the banned artists are accused of behaviours which have not been confirmed by any authorities.
For example, back in 2017, Spotify received backlash due to their decision to remove anything that they considered as “hate content”. With movements such as #MeToo opening the world up to the entertainment industry’s silenced sexual assaults and harassments, Spotify’s choice to remove the music of artists such as R Kelly and XXXTentacion from their curated playlists and recommendations came as a very quick reaction to show their audience where they stand.
Although both artists are faced with severe allegations of sexual violence, Spotify was soon questioned about why these artists were the only ones banned. While artists such as Michael Jackson, David Bowie, John Lennon and more who have been accused of hateful conduct were not also removed from their recommended algorithms.
In response, the streaming platform has since released a new “don’t play this artist” feature which allows their users to block music that they no longer want to hear.
Whether or not Spotify had the right intentions when banning the artists, the platform portrayed itself to many as one that aligned with current political movements in order to gain the attention of consumers who had similar values.
I’m most certainly not the right person to tell you if you should or should not be listening to these artists, although I do strongly believe that it’s important for political movements such as #MeToo to create these conversations, in the hope of holding these people accountable for their actions. If businesses are going to ban these musicians, it does not necessarily mean their music is unavailable to listen elsewhere and it’s important to note that there is so much more music out there by artists who deserve your support.
A businesses choice to share their political views can be a very bold move and is often perceived as irrelevant to many consumers. The overall response shows us that media companies require more transparency in their decision making; they need to leave it up to us to decide, based on our own moral judgments.