Spotify Won’t Remove Kanye West Music Over ‘Awful Comments,’ Daniel Ek Confirms

Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek
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Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek
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Photo Credit: Fortune Live Media / CC by 2.0

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has confirmed that his platform doesn’t intend to remove the work of Kanye West (also known as Ye), with whom Gap, Adidas, CAA, and others have recently cut ties.  

39-year-old Daniel Ek, whose Stockholm-based streaming company posted its Q3 earnings yesterday, reiterated the hands-off approach when speaking with Reuters. Describing the Kanye West remarks that spurred far-reaching criticism and professional fallout as “just awful comments,” the Spotify head nevertheless emphasized that his service solely evaluates creators’ on-platform content.

Consequently, as West didn’t make the “awful comments” on a Spotify podcast or in his music, the entity isn’t planning to remove the latter. Instead, the decision to pull down the songs in question, including commercially successful efforts such as “Stronger” (1.08 billion Spotify streams), would have to come from West’s record label, Ek indicated.

“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy,” relayed Ek, whose company three weeks ago acquired Dublin-based content-moderation business Kinzen. “It’s up to his label, if they want to take action or not.”

(Kinzen says that it “scales human solutions to the information crisis” and brought attention to “a deep dive into the Flat Earth movement” in a recently published blog post.)

And on this front, Universal Music Group released a statement condemning anti-Semitism amid the public outcry over West’s words, but hasn’t delisted his tracks from Spotify or other leading streaming platforms. The Atlanta-born artist’s library boasts nearly 51 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, with multiple songs having racked up north of 500 million streams apiece.

Of course, the precise role of companies (and in particular tech giants) in censoring art, moderating words and ideas, and banning individuals remains the subject of lively debate. But Spotify’s decision to continue hosting Kanye West’s work shouldn’t come as a surprise to seasoned observers.

To be sure, Spotify to date hasn’t felt compelled to do away with (or add a disclaimer to) songs containing overtly anti-Semitic lyrics. Meanwhile, the music of individuals who have been accused of assault, been accused of shooting a fellow artist, and been convicted of sex crimes is still available on the service – points that have evidently set the bar rather high for takedowns stemming from (even reprehensible) words.

Earlier in October, Kanye West unveiled a preliminary deal to purchase a social media platform called Parler, according to the involved parties, who communicated that they “intend to enter into a definitive purchase agreement and expect to close during the fourth quarter of 2022.”