Brands fled Kanye. What about his music career?

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CNN business

Ye – formerly known as Kanye West – has lost partnerships with fashion brands including Gap, Balenciaga and Adidas following his anti-Semitic remarks in recent weeks. Now questions remain about the business that helped launch Ye onto the fashion scene in the first place: 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 notable artists. According to Billboard, he has had countless hits and 10 number one albums.

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

Over the past month, Ye has drawn backlash by wearing a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt and threatening Jewish people on Twitter. That has prompted retailers, social media platforms, fashion and entertainment companies to abandon him in droves.

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

Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has had a lucrative music career.  Where to go from here?

Universal Music Group – one of the world’s biggest record companies – said Tuesday that her relationship with Ye ended in 2021, adding that there was “no place 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 venture, and Yes’s merchandise deal with Bravado all ended in 2021,” UMG said in a statement to CNN Business.

The company added, “We are deeply committed to fighting anti-Semitism and every 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 must now be divided into two parts: “What happens to his existing music in the market? And what about any new music he might create?”

“Certainly there will be people who have changed their feelings for him and their minds will be set from now on,” Elton said. “But there will be others who are either unaware of the situation or just don’t care about his views who will focus solely on his art.”

Some have already stopped listening.

Yes music licensing could take a hit in the future.

Streams of Yes songs fell 23% in the United States between October 13 and 20, and airplay fell 13%, according to Variety. This has led some to question whether his songs should be banned from streaming services like Spotify (SPOT) and Apple (AAPL) Music.

Elton says that’s unlikely.

“I think music services generally don’t have the job of judging the moral standing of the artist,” she said.

Elton pointed out that the music of singer R. Kelly, who was convicted of multiple child pornography charges in September, was not removed.

Spotify will not remove Yes’s music unless his label requests the removal, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters on Tuesday.

“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policies,” Ek said. “It’s up to his label whether they want to do something or not.”

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

Apple Music did not immediately respond to CNN Business’s request for comment on Yes’s music.

One area that could have financial implications for both 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 recent 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 may be.

“I’d be surprised if you saw Universal or any company out there willing to actively invest in trying to promote Yes songs for licensing opportunities,” Elton said. “I think they will redirect their energies elsewhere.”


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