Chart Beat

Are People Still Listening to R. Kelly? The Last Three Years By the Numbers

R. Kelly
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R. Kelly arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building for a hearing on June 26, 2019 in Chicago.

After the release of 'Surviving R. Kelly,' the disgraced singer has been seen as music's biggest monster, but fans are still listening to his music.

Over the past three years, R. Kelly has been embroiled in criminal controversy, stemming from multiple charges of sexual abuse and misconduct and culminating in last week’s last week's conviction on nine counts, including sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child. As a result, consumption the disgraced R&B singer's music has fallen -- but not as drastically as some might expect.

Below is a visual representation of how Kelly’s total on-demand streams and radio spins have been impacted by his legal issues and eventual conviction over the past three years, including the most recent tracking week, per MRC Data:

In Jan. 2019, Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary detailed several allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct against Kelly -- all of which he denied. But the public outcry was swift. Kelly's label, RCA Records, dropped him soon after, and he was dropped from almost all official streaming playlists and radio stations.

During this time, Kelly's music saw a quick curiosity spike, with streaming totals briefly soaring to over 20 million on-demand streams per week. Radio play, meanwhile, nearly dropped off completely.

As criminal charges were brought against Kelly over the course of 2019, Kelly’s streaming totals declined, eventually hovering around 10 million streams per week by the beginning of 2020. And by August 2021 when his federal trial began in New York, Kelly's radio and streaming numbers had settled into averages far below those prior to early 2019.

His Sept. 27 guilty verdict did, however, spur a 14% increase in on-demand streams from the previous chart week and a 55% increase in airplay spins. Still, both metrics remained considerably lower than his 2018 numbers. It's also worth noting streaming's overall growth over this three-year time period, with U.S. on-demand audio streams up 68 percent compared to the same week in 2018.

Sentencing for Kelly has been set for May 2022. Late on Tuesday, YouTube permanently disabled Kelly’s official channels on the platform, which will likely impact his future streaming totals.