Chris Brown’s Arrest Brings Fresh Quandary to Music Services

(Bloomberg) -- Spotify Technology SA and other music-streaming services, which have struggled with how to cope with allegations of misconduct by artists, are facing a new test.

Chris Brown’s Arrest Brings Fresh Quandary to Music Services

Singer Chris Brown was detained Monday in Paris after a woman filed a rape complaint, according to the Associated Press, renewing legal trouble for an artist who pleaded guilty to felony assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Brown was held on potential charges of aggravated rape and drug infractions, a French judicial official told the news service.

Representatives for the Grammy-winning singer, 29, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident threatens to put streaming services under fresh scrutiny -- especially after the polarizing downfall of R. Kelly, who has faced allegations of misconduct for years. Spotify attempted to penalize artists’ misbehavior in a policy adopted last year, stripping R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion from its playlists. But the company had to walk back the policy after a few weeks when artists such as rapper Kendrick Lamar threatened to boycott the service.

Following the decline of CDs and terrestrial radio, music-streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora Media Inc. have become a key link between artists and listeners. That’s added pressure on the companies to respond to the behavior of musicians they stream.

Spotify and Apple Music didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about Brown’s arrest.

Pandora, meanwhile, has been refining its policies for artists with offensive content or unacceptable behavior.

“We approach each situation on a case-by-case basis to ensure we stay true to our principles, avoid unnecessary censorship, and provide a safe experience for our listeners,” spokeswoman Dayle Dempsey, who didn’t address the Brown situation directly, said in an email.

Policing Playlists

Under Spotify’s short-lived rules last year, offending acts were pulled from playlists but listeners could still seek them out on the service. The policy didn’t specify which behavior it considered problematic, and Spotify didn’t communicate its plans with the music industry in advance. Some people mistakenly believed the artists weren’t available on the service in any form.

“While we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines,” the company said in a blog post at the time.

XXXTentacion, a rapper accused of assaulting a pregnant woman, was restored to the service in June (he was murdered later that month in an apparent robbery). But R. Kelly remained banned from Spotify’s playlists.

R. Kelly has been accused of coercing women into having sex when they were under age. Parents also have alleged that the R&B singer held their daughters against the women’s will. A recent documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly” renewed concerns about the artist with its accounts from his alleged victims.

In the wake of the outcry, Sony Corp.’s RCA scrubbed R. Kelly from its lineup last week. The music label also represents Brown.

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