The Complicated Relationship of Music and Cancel Culture

As social media grows and musicians use it, their lives are more in the spotlight, which has led us towards cancel culture.

Throughout centuries, music listeners have been infatuated with music artists. 

Some arguably an obsessive and unhealthy amount, yet musicians have a strong presence in many people’s lives. 

Music listeners tend to build a deep relationship with musicians through the artist’s musical implications. 

However, this deep connection comes with painful realisations. Artists in today’s social media world can instill positive networking and communication with fans but are also prone to negative magnified judgment based on their current, previous, or future actions. 

According to, the term cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles. 

As the global consumer’s awareness of social issues grows, music listeners are expecting more from their music artists than just sensational music. 

Furthermore, musicians have a harsh reality of not being able to escape the notion of cancel culture.

Popular pop-rapper Doja Cat received backlash for using homophobic slurs in tweets generated from her high school days. 

Michael Clifford from the band 5 Seconds of Summer has been ‘cancelled’ for his old tweets surrounding sexist jokes and anti-feminism gestures. 

Music listeners are forced to argue with themselves in whether they can separate the art from the artist based on their moral compasses. 

The questions remain: How do we treat canceled artists? Is there any form of redemption? 

Can music artists truly overcome the cancel culture? The answers are not quite simple.


Musicians of Cancel Culture

Australian Rapper Iggy Azalea had extreme hits through the 2014-2017 hip hop-pop evolution. 

From songs such as Bounce to Clueless inspired track Fancy ft. Charli XCX the singer was set to face global music domination. 

However, the Australian rapper was accused of appropriation of black culture without apology just to generate successful music sales. 

This resulted in her disastrous decline in music streams, merch, music video views, and more.  

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Under Fire: Iggy Azalea has been criticised for some of her music

Rhythm and blues legend, R. Kelly tumultuous scandal surrounding harassment of women came to life in a six-part documentary titled Surviving R.Kelly. 

The documentary sparked a media frenzy as details of sexual abuse, propelled the musician to be canceled from various music entertainment sectors including his record label. 

Similarly, Pop Icon Micheal Jackson continues to make startling news even after he died in 2009. 

An intense four-part documentary Leaving Neverland brings to light child abuse accusation, leaving music listeners conflicted on whether to continue streaming the King of Pop’s influential music.

However, both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson produced a surprising discovery. 

Leading up to the Leaving Neverland, Jackson’s music on the radio declined drastically, averaging 14,000 spins per week.

After the documentary series aired, Michal Jackson’s radio and streaming demand grew 21.8 % from the previous year. This results in more revenue for the music artist., suggests a similar happening from R Kelly’s music. After the horrific allegation of the singer through the docu-series, Kelly’s streams jumped 116% the day of the final airing. further explains that Kelly’s streams were a prominent 1.9 million upon release of the ‘cancellation’ while the artist concluded 4.3 million by the end of the documentary airing. 

Although cancel culture has been thrust upon these musicians, the artists still generate a high number of revenues, if not more than they did before the cancellation. Why?


Transparency and Justice

It is safe to say that cancel culture comes from a good place. 

There is more of a societal push for transparency and justice based on the discrimination that is normalised or dismissed. 

However, through nostalgia and memories of various music artist’s projects, it may be hard for listeners to let them go. 

This notion, however, can be (in a toxic reality) their sense of redemption.

On a smaller scale of cancel culture, artists can redeem their interactions with music listeners by acknowledging the problem, understanding the wrongdoing, and apologising in a sincere/appropriate manner. 

Apologies through public sectors along with donations to causes surrounding the cancellation could be a possible way of giving back to the music community.


A Musician’s View

One of my greatest fears as an artist is being canceled as a musician. 

Many artists share the same fear as artists heavily rely on music listening for financial gain. 

As music consumers continue to dive more into musicians’ personal lives rather than the music itself, cancel culture is a prominent force. 

Through the heavy influencer culture, many artists’ marketing approaches have to surround personality-based content to further their musical endeavours.

Collaborations through social media platforms through TikTok dances, Instagram challenges, and more continue to be a focal point for self-promotion. 

However as Doja Cat experienced, the internet has been known to save anything and everything of your past through social media interactions, posts, etc. 

The treatment of artists through minor cancel culture can bring on many more negative impacts for the artist such as mental health issues. 

Music artists must be constantly aware of what and how posts on social media are created. 

Additionally, artists must learn to keep a distance from their social media personas and allow a strong barrier in front of their personal (private) lives. 

The demise of an artist should be taken seriously and heavily researched. In some cases, the cancel culture becomes this trendy subject to throw off an artist’s rise in the music industry. 

Listeners must educate themselves on the cancellation before making assumptions. However, the cancellation of an artist is all subjective.

It comes down to the moral integrity of the music listener and their beliefs surrounding the matter.

More music stories here:

Are Music Streaming Platforms Good For Music?

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