‘Any advertising is good publicity’

On Monday, multiplatinum R&B artist R. Kelly was found guilty on all nine counts against him, including crime and eight violations of a law on combating sex trafficking known as the Mann Act.

The guilty verdict follows years of allegations of sexual assault dating back to the early 1990s. Lifetime’s 2019 documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” combined with the rise of the #MeToo movement, intensified calls for justice against the 54-year-old singer.

In addition, the #MuteRKelly campaign, first launched in 2017, called for the artist’s songs to be removed on both radio and music apps. The campaign later led to several canceled concert tours.

But a looming question is whether major music platforms will permanently remove Kelly’s tracks. Data suggests that recent headlines have done little to counteract his broad streaming popularity, especially among younger listeners.

In May 2018, Spotify (SPOT) removed the artist from its curated playlists, but left its music available on the platform. At the time, Spotify said it wanted its “editorial decisions – what we choose to program – to reflect our values.”

R. Kelly Editorial Playlist (Source: Chartmetric)

R. Kelly Editorial Playlist (Source: Chartmetric)

However, according to a recent report from the music analysis platform Chartmetric, R. Kelly still appears on a significant number of Spotify editorial playlists (approximately 300) with an increase in additions occurring around August 2020.

In addition to Spotify, Apple Music (AAPL) and Amazon Music (AMZN) have also seen playlist pop with peaks appearing in the spring of 2021 and September 2020, respectively.

Overall, Charmetric said, “any kind of attention will always justify an increase in short-term metrics across different platforms. In the long run, if consumption were really affected by these unpleasant news events, we would see a decline in activity over time.”

“Instead, it seems that the old industry’s adage ‘any advertising is good publicity’ holds true,” the company added.

His tracks have also been on the US iTunes R & B / Soul chart since 2018. “I Believe I Can Fly” peaked at No. 6 in January 2019 following the release of “Surviving R. Kelly.”

Since his conviction on Sept. 27, R. Kelly’s editorial playlists have remained relatively stagnant. Still, the event seemed to have reminded some Spotify users to add R. Kelly to their own personal playlists.

According to the data, 300 to 400 user-generated lists with the singer appeared between September 27 and September 29.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s Spotify Popularity Index – a standardized metric the platform uses to cure playlists – has dropped from 77 to 69 (out of 100) since March 2018. However, that popularity level has been fairly consistent since that period.

For context, Kelly maintains a similar level of Spotify popularity with other big-name artists including Will Smith (72), Zendaya (73) and Fifth Harmony (75).

After August 2021, R. Kelly’s unique monthly listenership slowly declined by a few thousand a day, going from 5.2 million to the current figure of 4.8 million.

R.Kellys TikTok -bom

Singer R. Kelly will perform during the Red Light Concert Series at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, November 2, 2013. Photo taken November 2, 2013. REUTERS / Andrea De Silva (TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Singer R. Kelly will perform during the Red Light Concert Series at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, November 2, 2013. Photo taken November 2, 2013. REUTERS / Andrea De Silva (TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

The artist’s presence on social media – including Instagram (FB), TikTok and YouTube (GOOGL) – has apparently increased over time, Chartmetric noted, where young women made up a significant part of his audience.

And after Kelly’s allegations of sex crime in July 2019, his YouTube channel views and subscriber level rose. The singer also saw a huge increase in Instagram followers in January 2019 following the release of “Surviving R. Kelly.”

But TikTok is possibly the platform where the singer is heavily talked about.

Some of the biggest TikTok influencers, including Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, have continued to focus on 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 surpassing Frank Ocean’s and approaching J. Coles.

Kelly, who now faces life in prison, is due to judge on May 4.

Alexandra is a producer and entertainment correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @ alliecanal8193

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