Spotify Removes Racist Music In Response To Charlottesville

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 6 years old.
Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Spotify and other streaming services have begun removing white supremacist content from its platforms, as websites and musicians alike scramble to distance themselves from the white nationalist movement that caused chaos in Charlottesville.

In a statement on Wednesday, Spotify blamed the labels and distributors that supply music to its database, but says "material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention."

Tidal, the streaming service owned by Jay-Z, seems to be following suit. Two "hate bands" NPR found on Tuesday had been removed as of Thursday morning.

The swift rebuke of racist content wasn't limited to listening platforms. Country music website Wide Open Country took the unorthodox step of publishing an editorial directed at any racist readers, after a roundup of country musician reactions to Charlottesville drew polarizing criticism on social media.

Matt Alpert, the website's managing editor, wrote, "I want to make something very clear to everyone who follows us and reads this site: Wide Open Country vehemently opposes any form of racism. We stand firmly against any type of hatred, bigotry, and especially any Nazi scum."


"I felt compelled to say something," Alpert told NPR. "With this particular thing that happened in Charlottesville, we wanted to be clear about how we felt about that and where we stand. Seeing those comments, and seeing them rise to the top [of the post]... it felt like we needed to say something."

Rosanne Cash (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Writing on Facebook yesterday, country music royalty Rosanne Cash took aim at a "self-proclaimed neo-Nazi" wearing a t-shirt with Johnny Cash's face on it. "We were sickened by the association," she wrote, going on to point out that her father's "pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics."

Facebook took steps this week to make it harder for racist fans to share photos like the one featuring Johnny Cash. The social network drew its own line in the sand this week, removing the profile pages of Christopher Cantwell, a fascist activist who promotes overthrowing the U.S. government, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Cantwell was profiled by Vice while in Charlottesville, who says on video that "we're not non-violent, we'll f****** kill these people if we have to."

Facebook's terms prohibit posting content it classifies as "hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." The dominance of Facebook's platform, as the world learned last year, helped to legitimize voices like Cantwell's through proximity to more legitimate news sources within people's feeds, a problem it says it is working to fix.

The existence of racist music on music platforms isn't a new phenomenon. Nearly three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out to Apple and the iTunes Store that they were selling, and thereby profiting from, openly racist, neo-fascist musicians, like the hardcore band Skrewdriver.

In a memo to his staff yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced his company would donate $2 million and double its employees' donations to human rights groups through Sept. 30. "As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect."

Examples of tech's circling of the wagons in the midst of a racist storm of philosophical shrapnel abound. But the connection between Wide Open Country and Spotify is clear — both are saying, unwaveringly: We don't want you here.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit