Apple Music has “quietly” removed two of Kanye West’s playlists from its platform. This news was leaked to the music press quietly, of course, and has (thus far) produced tons of free media impressions for the streamer.
The move was presumably a shrewd public relations stunt, or maybe a rogue employee with coding skills. Who knows? But the media framed it as Apple Music taking a stand, quietly, of course, as the streamer repositions itself in the headlines after it announced last week that it was raising subscription prices. “De-platforming” Kanye West is messaging they’d like to piggyback, for obvious reasons, as it appeals to a swath of bored subscribers who could end up tweeting Apple Music for not being on the “right side of history.”
Apple Music is now the first streaming giant to remove Kanye West’s music. Every PR campaign is centered around being the first: the first to break news, the first to announce a new product, the first to demonstrate faux-moral superiority over its competition. The “de-platforming” was handled cleanly, without fingerprints, like a professional hit, to avoid the accusation that Apple Music is exploiting Kanye’s mental decline and scandal-ridden reputation for PR points (it probably is).
But what did it remove? An “Essentials” and “Video Essentials” playlist — two in total, curated playlists — which are big nothingburgers, as all of Kanye West’s discography remains on the streaming service.
So what is this about, really? Reputation management, for sure, and a preemptive move to beat the copyright holders (Universal’s Def Jam label) should they decide to do something as unprecedented and philistine as removing Kanye West’s music from streamers. That actually reminds me of a Bill Hicks joke. It’s the one about drugs helping produce some of the greatest rock albums. They did. So did madness, prejudice, paranoia, heartbreak, twisted fantasies, and lots of drugs (or, in Kanye’s case, a lack of drugs). Someone needs to roofie Kanye West with high-dosage psilocybin.
The move frames Apple Music as the more woke alternative to Spotify (which has refused to pull Kanye West’s music and has stood firm behind Joe Rogan). Apple Music’s quiet move avoids anything that could produce a lawsuit or calls to remove every other musician who is morally bankrupt or mentally unstable (millions of albums, poof, gone). Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters that Kanye’s antisemitic comments were “awful” but that he would not remove his catalog (leaving the decision to Def Jam, which maintains Kanye West’s catalog). Apple Music went in another direction, the wrong one.
Apple Music has not issued a statement yet, but they don’t need to. The music press is “quietly” leaking the news for them.