Sony Music has decided to end its working relationship with R. Kelly.
According to Variety, R. Kelly was removed from the RCA Records website, which lists the label’s signed artists, shortly after 10 a.m. PT on Friday, Jan. 18.
Kelly’s back catalog will remain with RCA/Sony. Kelly’s last release with the label was a Christmas-themed album in 2016, although he has released several songs independently since that time, presumably with Sony’s consent, and Tweeted earlier this year that he has a new album on the way.
Contacted by Variety, reps for both RCA Records and its parent company, Sony Music, declined to comment. His current adviser, Don Russell, told Rolling Stone that several record labels are “very interested” in working with Kelly. “We understand RCA’s position: they have to remain transparent for the sake of the other artists that they represent and generate wealth for,” he said. “They’re not in the position of dealing with the kind of stuff that has come about with R. Kelly. He has no issue with RCA. I think he’s outgrown RCA. He’s ready for the next level of life, anyway.”
A rep for Live Nation, which formerly promoted Kelly’s tours, told Variety Friday that it has not done so in many years, although it did occasionally do one-off concerts with him via regional promoters, but “not for more than a year.”
Sony’s move comes after years of public calls, and even a petition from members of the #MuteRKelly movement, for the company to part ways with Kelly. Those calls intensified in the wake of Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” in which multiple women accuse him of sexual misconduct.
In recent weeks a plane commissioned by the women’s organization UltraViolet and carrying a sign reading “RCA/Sony: Drop Sexual Predator R. Kelly” flew over Sony Music’s Culver City offices and a protest was staged outside of Sony’s New York headquarters. But an insider notes that efforts to extricate Sony from its contract with Kelly had been ongoing for several months before and “[the plane] had no influence.”
Allegations of sexually abusive behavior by Kelly toward young women date back more than 20 years.
By Jem Aswad and Shirley Halperin