We should not separate the art from the artist. Individuals should disqualify some art as being worthy of their enjoyment if the misconduct of the artist in question was, in their opinion, sufficiently significant as to warrant not consuming their art altogether. Art produced by those at the center of the most significant and publicized scandals – Bill Cosby, 6ix9ine, R. Kelly, and others – lies at the heart of this discussion.
Fundamentally, supporting bad artists spreads bad values. It’s easy to forget that buying an album, going to see a movie, or even streaming content puts money into the pockets of the creator and the companies that support them. Not only should we all find the concept of sending money to people whose character we abhor to be regrettable, but these financial decisions add up, resulting in real-world consequences. When consumers refuse to support the creators of art they previously enjoyed due to the immoral actions of those artists, positive change results. For example, it is only because many of us have decided to not separate the art from the artist that Netflix felt pressured enough to replace Kevin Spacey’s role in the fifth season of “House of Cards” following allegations of sexual assault against him.
Beyond simply being the right thing to do, this sends a message to millions of people that those who commit sexual assault will be financially as well as socially hurt. Creating more deterrence against sexual misconduct is clearly to the benefit of society.
There’s still more work to be done. For example, most of us don’t seem to care about the fact that 6ix9ine pleaded guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance in 2015, but we should think twice about whether or not we want to be sending the revenue from our streams to a statutory rapist. His continued popularity only sends the message to society’s youth that, presuming you’re famous, you can do awful things and still wind up being supported by millions if you’re influential enough.
As individuals, we should act in alignment with the values that we support whenever possible, and even though it might not be convenient to have to take a couple of artists out of your Spotify playlists, refusing to support artists who are abusers, harassers, and assaulters is fundamentally the right thing to do.