I have been guilty a couple of times in the past two years of mindlessly listening to a Spotify-curated playlist of R&B jams while doing errands—when suddenly I find myself bopping along to R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” I’d usually catch myself by the time I’m miming the “beep beep!” part near the song’s chorus, at which point I’d be scrambling to dig my phone out of my bag to press skip to the next track.
Well, it seems that scenario won’t be happening anymore in the near future, with the music streaming app finally set to launch an artist blacklisting feature.
This isn’t the first time that Spotify has flirted with offering users a block feature. Subscribers have long been requesting for one as a way to show their withdrawal of support from problematic and abusive artists such as R. Kelly and the late rapper XXXTentacion, and in May of last year, Spotify responded by removing the tracks of both mentioned artists from any of the streaming service’s editorial or algorithmic playlists (RapCaviar, Discover Weekly, New Music Friday, and the like) as part of its then new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy.
The thing, though, is that R. Kelly’s and XXXTentacion’s songs would still available on the app, just not promoted actively. “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions—what we choose to program—to reflect our values,” Spotify then explained through a statement to Billboard. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”
Certain artists didn’t receive this move well; Kendrick Lamar threatened to remove his music from the app if Spotify upheld their ban.
Consumer requests for the app to consider rolling out a block feature hasn’t abated, especially in the wake of Surviving R. Kelly and how it has amplified the call for the music industry to #MuteRKelly for good. Two days ago, Spotify’s stance on blacklisting was still a “No,” as per this Tweet:
We understand. We're afraid this isn’t possible right now, but we have more info about this on our Community. Check it out: https://t.co/3NtA9t3qV1. We hope this clears things up /CV
— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) January 21, 2019
But sleuths over at the website Thurrott discovered a “block” button that can be accessed from the “…” menu on an artist’s page:
I, of course, had to test it myself, but it seems that the feature remains limited to a small number of users; Thurrott writer Mehedi Hassan speculates that the block button is available to him as part of Spotify’s beta program on iOs. “If you are on iOS, however, you will likely receive the feature sometime soon, as the company seems to have been testing it for a few months with a smaller group of users and the firm only started rolling out to a wider group sometime last week,” he concluded.
In the meantime, I need to keep my vigilance in case Spotify springs a track upon me from an artist whose behavior (and/or music) I don’t care for—and there are a lot of them. I guess I’ll just bide my time, Arya Stark-style.