Brands have run away from Kanye. What about his music career?



New York
CNN business

Ye – formerly known as Kanye West – has lost ties with fashion brands including Gap, Balenciaga and Adidas over his anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks. Now, the questions remain About the business that helped propel Ye onto the fashion scene: Music.

Since 2004’s “The College Dropout”—his critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album—Ye has been one of the world’s most popular and noteworthy artists. He has had countless hits and top 10 albums according to Billboard.

But all of that could be in jeopardy because of the performer’s recent behavior and comments.

In the past month, Ye has faced intense backlash for wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt and making threats against Jews on Twitter. This has led to the abandonment of many retailers, social media platforms, fashion and entertainment companies.

But what does all this mean for Ye’s music career?

Universal Music Group – one of the world’s biggest record labels – said on Tuesday that its relationship with Ye had ended in 2021, adding that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in our society”.

“Def Jam’s relationship with Ye as a recording artist, Def Jam’s partnership with label GOOD Music, and Ye’s merchandise deal with Bravado all ended in 2021,” UMG said in a statement to CNN Business. .

The company added that “we are strongly committed to combating anti-Semitism and all other forms 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 about his music in the marketplace? And what happens to the new music he can create?’

“There’s definitely going to be people who have changed the way they feel about him, and it’s going to be a decision from now on,” Elton said. “But there will be others who are uninformed about the situation or simply don’t care about his opinions, who will choose to focus solely on his artistry.”

Some have already stopped listening.

Licensing Ye's music may be successful going forward.

Streams of Ye’s songs dropped 23% in the United States between October 13 and October 20, and airplay was down 13%, according to Variety. That has led to questions about whether his songs should be banned by streaming services like Spotify ( SPOT ) and Apple ( AAPL ) Music.

Elton says that’s difficult.

“I think music services, in general, are not in the business of evaluating the moral standing of the artist,” he said.

Elton noted that singer R. Kelly, who was convicted of multiple child pornography charges in September, has not been stripped of his music.

Spotify will not remove Ye’s music unless he asks to be removed from his labels, 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 their label whether they want to take action or not.”

Ek added that Ye’s remarks were “just outrageous comments.”

As for Apple Music, it did not immediately respond to CNN Business’ request for comment on Ye’s music.

One area where Ye and Universal Music Group can have financial influence is the licensing of his music.

Listeners can continue to buy his records, attend his concerts, and continue to play his songs even after the recent backlash. However, it’s a steeper hill to climb to convince filmmakers, TV producers and advertisers to associate Ye and his songs with the big bucks, no matter how popular his music may be.

“I would be surprised if Universal or any company out there would be willing to invest in trying to actively promote Ye’s songs for licensing opportunities,” Elton said. “I think they will focus their energies elsewhere.”