While Ye’s presence on the radio has faded over the last month — from an average of about 2,300 plays of his songs a week to 1,800 last week, with many stations now dropping him entirely — streaming may provide a safety net. His stockpile of hits remains steadily popular there, drawing nearly 4 billion plays so far this year in the United States alone. On Spotify, he has 51 million monthly listeners around the world, making him the 19th most popular artist on that platform.
Over the last month, Ye’s streaming numbers have slipped a bit, declining by about 6 percent to 88 million on-demand clicks in the United States. But those totals are well within his usual range at this point in his career, and are even up slightly since the beginning of 2022, according to Luminate. The number of user playlists on Spotify with songs by Ye has also shot up in recent weeks to nearly 1.3 million, according to Chartmetric, a company that tracks streaming and social media.
Those numbers suggest some combination of fan loyalty and user curiosity that may be driven by attention in the news media. “Most music consumers probably just care about whether they like the music or not, so any negative press coverage about an artist might just remind them to listen to their music,” said Rutger Rosenborg, the marketing manager of Chartmetric. “And maybe Kanye is banking on that.”
That phenomenon has played out numerous times in recent years. Many fans of R. Kelly stuck with him in their private listening habits, even as the singer was accused — and convicted — of racketeering and sex trafficking. Last year, after the country star Morgan Wallen was caught on video using a racial slur, radio stations removed his songs for a time, and streaming platforms temporarily took him off official playlists. But fans rallied behind him, and Wallen has ended up with the longest Top 10 streak on Billboard’s album chart in nearly 60 years.
Artists like Chris Brown, XXXTentacion and Michael Jackson, who have also been accused of misconduct, have held strong on streaming services. Those platforms have usually been reluctant to remove content, viewing their role as neutral protectors of speech. Kelly’s music, for example, remains widely available, even if it is not promoted heavily.
Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, told Reuters on Tuesday that Ye’s “awful comments” would warrant removal from the service only if they were included on a recorded song or podcast. “His music doesn’t violate our policy,” Ek said. “It’s up to his label, if they want to take action or not.”