What Could Spotify’s Removal of Hate Speech Mean for Christian Music in the Future?
Spotify, Tidal, Google, CD Baby, and other music-related businesses services have recently taken a stance on music that is considered to be ‘hate speech’ and are working to eradicate it from their services. A majority of this music is by White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups that blast hate in their music.
On the surface, it sounds like a good thing, but the implications of what can happen next is a bit scary, especially for Christians.
There are some who feel Christianity or any other monotheistic religion (Judaism and Islam) spread hate with their strong stances against homosexuality.
One clear example is in Andy Mineo’s song “Uncomfortable.” In the song he says, “I apologize for Christians with pickets sayin’, ‘God hates f**s’/ I promise Jesus wouldn’t act like that.” Contextually, this line is something positive. Mineo isn’t calling anyone a derogatory term, but rather apologizing for the “stigma” that some who claim Christianity sometimes give off. However, the problem is, someone may still consider him saying the word as “hate-speech” anyway, much like someone dropping the “N-word.” Secondly, some may equate Mineo’s apology as something that is prominent thinking for Christians and demand Christian music be taken down. Frankly, it’s complicated.
A somewhat relevant comparison looks back at Obama’s 2013 Presidential inauguration when Pastor Louie Giglio was slated to lead the prayer. He pulled out of the event because of the backlash and pressure thrown his way by gay rights activists because of his stance on same sex marriage. Pastor Giglio’s website included a 54-minute sermon recorded in the 90s that advocated gay conversion therapy and “anti-LGBT views.” In this instance, the pastor removed himself, but what’s not to say that someone, especially with the political and social unrest going on now, will go and try to pull anything from the Christian market.
“Of course it worries me when people start talking about banning hate speech, hate music etc, considering it became explicitly clear this year that high ranking lawmakers like Bernie Sanders consider fundamental pillars of Christianity (exclusive salvation by way of Christ) to be hateful, and Spotify’s terms and conditions currently gives it the ability to pull hateful content discriminating against race, religion, sexual orientation etc,” said Christian rap artist Mogli the Iceburg.
This is a sentiment echoed by Syntax Creative’s CEO Tim Trudeau, who recalls receiving a notice from Spotify concerning Spotify’s right to remove content that it deems hateful and wondering who was going to be in charge of what is and what is not considered hateful. He remembers asking his staff, “Will there be a time in the future where Christian music will be deemed hateful?”
Trudeau said that events like the one that happened in Charlottesville, VA definitely bring this topic back to the forefront. He also said this situation is reminiscent of what is now being dubbed the YouTube “Adpocalypse.”
A report came out that shed a light on YouTube creators who made what some may deem controversial, objectionable, or profane content getting thousands of dollars from the ads played on their channel.
In turn, companies started pulling their ads from these channels in videos. But for every ISIS or Nazi video without an ad, other content creators were also unfairly targeted because the scope is so wide. YouTube started pulling ads from channels that used profanity, series’ that talk about crime and mystery, things that had violence, etc. This took away some YouTuber’s livelihood as their channels were destroyed because all of their videos were demonetized.
Trudeau himself said, “This year has been our lowest advertising revenue from YouTube in 5 or more years. That’s with our catalog that is twice the size of back then. The public pressure has a tendency to make companies over react.”
Keep in mind that Syntax Creative distributes music, so what exactly were they losing money for?
“I think there is a legitimate chance we may see some of these issues turn really ugly in the coming years, but at the same time, should Bible believing Christians expect anything otherwise? I don’t recall Scripture saying anything along the lines of ‘the world is gonna think you’re great and moral and love you for your beliefs’,” said Mogli.
Both Trudeau and Mogli understand that this is the nature of the business.
The Syntax CEO says even though an artist like Eminem has a catalog full of graphic content toward women, (ex: “Kim” and “Same Song & Dance”) and many other slurs, it is unlikely that his music will be taken down because of the amount of money that it generates for digital service providers. He also pointed out that around the same time the former CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, and the former owner of The Clippers, Donald Sterling, were being taken down by public pressure, Apple was propping up Dr. Dre—who is on record promoting violence and what some may consider to be ‘homophobic’ language—as one of the newest members of their executive team.
Eminem has over 9.5 million followers on Spotify and that doesn’t include plays. For comparison sake, Mogli has almost 2,500 followers. So of these two, who is in more danger?
“Christian music isn’t necessarily keeping the lights on for digital service providers,” said Trudeau.
He continued, “The consumers vote with their dollars. If enough of them want to listen to Christian music, we will be fine. However, if enough consumers start to define Christian music as ‘hate speech’ then services will drop it faster than a verse by Twista.”
Mogli believes that Spotify probably doesn’t want to lose out on any of Christian music’s money as well.
“Constitutionally, Spotify and other private businesses have every right to censor or pull music however they please, but I don’t think they are willing to alienate themselves from Christian subscription money either,” he said. “At the end of the day, we should be very thankful for our ability to express our beliefs, with the reasonable foresight that we may lose that ability in the future, and realize that scripture doesn’t really promise us anything different.”
Ultimately, this would potentially be another challenge for music executors to hurdle when it comes to music.
“I’m not worried about it. It would just be one more hurdle to overcome… like waning cassette sales, CD sales, or downloads,” said Trudeau. “For entrepreneurs, there’s always an opportunity. That is, as long as there is a marketplace.”
He concluded, “It would definitely hurt us initially because it would remove access to a lot of listeners and a lot of revenue. However, in the same way, that I want to run my business how I want, I think a DSP should be able to run their business how they want. Business work best when both parties voluntarily agree to the transaction. Let’s let the marketplace sort things out. Perhaps a decidedly Christian DSP, such as The Overflow, will experience massive growth if Christian content starts being removed from the major services.”
So what do you think of these moves for streaming and music platforms? Do you agree with their decision to pull hateful music if that means potentially jeopardizing other forms of music deemed “controversial?” Let us know in the comments.