Ye – formerly known as Kanye West – has lost partnerships with fashion brands including Gap, Balenciaga and Adidas over his anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks. Now questions remain on the business that helped propel Ye onto the fashion scene in the first place: music.
Since “The College Dropout” in 2004 – his critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album – Ye has been one of the most popular and notable artists in the world. He had countless hits and 10 number one albums, according to Billboard.
But all of that could be in jeopardy due to the artist’s recent behavior and comments.
Over the past month, Ye has sparked a backlash by wearing a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt and making threats on Twitter against the Jewish people. This has led retailers, social media platforms, fashion and entertainment companies to abandon it en masse.
But what does all of this mean for Ye’s music career?
Universal Music Group – one of the biggest record labels in the world – said on Tuesday its relationship with Ye ended in 2021, adding that there was ‘no room for anti-Semitism in our society’ .
“Def Jam’s relationship with Ye as a recording artist, Def Jam’s partnership with the GOOD Music label, and Ye’s merchandise deal with Bravado all ended in 2021,” UMG said in a statement. communicated to CNN Business.
The company added, “We are deeply committed to the fight against anti-Semitism and any other form of prejudice.”
Serona Elton, professor of music industry studies at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, believes that Ye’s music career should now be divided into two parts: “What’s going on with his existing music on the market? And what about any new music he might create?
“Certainly there will be people who have changed the way they feel about him, and their decision will be made from now on,” Elton said. “But there will be others, who are uninformed of the situation or who simply don’t care about his opinions, who choose to focus solely on his artistry.”
Some have already stopped listening.
Streams of Ye’s songs plunged 23% in the United States between October 13 and 20, and airflow dropped 13%, according to Variety. This has led some to question whether his songs should be banned by streaming services such as Spotify (SPOT) and Apple (AAPL) Music.
Elton says it’s unlikely.
“I think music services are generally not tasked with assessing the moral position of the artist,” she said.
Elton pointed out that singer R. Kelly, who was convicted of multiple child pornography charges in September, has not had his music taken down.
Spotify will not remove Ye’s music unless his label requests its removal, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters on Tuesday.
“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy,” Ek said. “It’s up to his label whether he wants to act or not.”
Ek added that Ye’s remarks are “just horrible comments”.
As for Apple Music, it did not immediately respond to CNN Business’ request for comment regarding Ye’s music.
One area that could have a financial impact for Ye and Universal Music Group is the licensing of his music.
Listeners can continue to buy his albums, attend his concerts, and stream his songs even after the latest backlash. However, it’s a steeper hill to climb to convince filmmakers, TV producers, and advertisers to shell out big bucks to be associated with Ye and his songs, no matter how popular his music is.
“I would be surprised if you saw Universal or any company willing to invest actively trying to promote Ye’s songs for licensing opportunities,” Elton said. “I think they will redirect their energies elsewhere.”
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