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R. Kelly’s Sales Soared 500 Percent After Guilty Verdicts

The singer’s streams were also up 22 percent in the week after he was convicted of racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, and kidnapping

In this June 26, 2019, file photo, musician R. Kelly departs from the Leighton Criminal Court building after a status hearing in his criminal sexual abuse trial in Chicago. On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, Kelly’s lawyer told a federal judge that an infected toe prevented his client from attending a hearing in his child pornography case in Chicago.

Amr Alfiky/AP

R. Kelly’s fall from grace accelerated after he was found guilty of racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, and kidnapping, but his streams and sales haven’t fallen at all. 

In fact, in the week following his guilty verdict, Kelly’s music saw double-digit growth in streams and a triple-digit growth in sales. From September 27th through October 3rd, Kelly’s on-demand audio streams were up 22 percent, while video streams were up 23 percent compared to the previous seven days. All told, his streams jumped from 11.2 million to 13.4 million. His album sales were up 517 percent. 

Over the past four years, streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify “muted” R. Kelly’s music by not including his songs on curated playlists. And many artists have decided to pull their R. Kelly collaborations from streaming, like Chance the Rapper, who removed “Somewhere in Paradise” in January 2019. This week, Jennifer Hudson’s “Where You At,” which was written and produced by R. Kelly, also seemed to disappear from streaming.

But for the most part, Kelly’s music is still available to those who want to stream it, and his streams have not dropped off at all over the past four years. In 2017, R. Kelly was averaging around 5.4 million on-demand audio streams per week, and this year he’s averaged around 6.4 million. 

The only platform to scrub his music has been YouTube, which announced this week that it shut down two official R. Kelly YouTube accounts that housed his official music videos (though unofficial videos remain on the platform and his music will remain available on YouTube Music). While video streams were up in the week following the verdict, there will likely be a precipitous drop-off in the coming days. 

It’s not uncommon for an artist to see a spike in activity directly after a controversy. Morgan Wallen, for example, saw his sales skyrocket 1,220 percent after a video surfaced of him using a racial slur.

From Rolling Stone US