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‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Doc Finale Spurred 116% Gain in R. Kelly Music Streams

Following the Jan. 3-5 airing of Lifetime's six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, on-demand streams of R. Kelly's music soared, as did his Wikipedia page views. Conversely, radio airplay has…

Following the Jan. 3-5 airing of Lifetime’s six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, on-demand streams of R. Kelly’s music soared, as did his Wikipedia page views. Conversely, radio airplay has plunged for the controversial R&B singer.

Here’s a look at how consumers and radio programmers have reacted to Kelly’s catalog in the wake of the documentary.


On Jan. 5, the third and final day of the airing of Surviving R. Kelly, on-demand streams of Kelly’s music rose by 116 percent in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music, as compared to his streams on Jan. 2, the day before the series began.

Kelly’s catalog of songs collected 4.3 million streams (audio and video combined) on Jan. 5, up from 1.9 million on Jan. 2.

The most-streamed songs for R. Kelly (full name Robert Sylvester Kelly) on Jan. 5 were: “Ignition” (433,000 U.S. streams; up 80 percent from 240,000 on Jan. 2), “Trapped in the Closet” (396,000; up 230 percent from 120,000), “Bump N’ Grind” (266,000; up 94 percent from 137,000), “Same Girl,” with Usher (176,000; up 126 percent from 78,000), and “I Believe I Can Fly” (161,000; up 48 percent from 109,000).

Further, if we add up Kelly’s daily streams during the three days the documentary aired, along with the day after the finale (Jan. 3-6), they gained by 65 percent compared to the four days leading up to the series premiere (Dec. 30-Jan. 2). Kelly’s songs tallied 14.5 million streams during the Jan. 3-6 period, versus 8.8 million on Dec. 30-Jan. 2.


Kelly has earned 13 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including two No. 1s: “Bump N’ Grind,” in 1994, and “I’m Your Angel,” with Celine Dion, in 1998. Based on current figures, it’s unlikely that any R. Kelly tracks will re-enter the Hot 100 next week (dated Jan. 19); “Ignition” has so far collected 1.8 million U.S. streams and sold 1,000 downloads in the tracking week (which ends Jan. 10).

In the six-hour docuseries, multiple women allege that they were subjected to mental, physical and sexual abuse by the singer. Kelly has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct. Kelly’s Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg also dismissed the claims, calling them “another round of stories” being used to “fill reality TV time.” Kelly is reportedly under criminal investigation in Georgia in wake of the accusations made in the series.



Viewers have searched for more information on Kelly since Surviving R. Kelly first aired. On Jan. 2, the day before the premiere, he drew 3,000 Wikipedia page views, according to Next Big Sound. On Jan. 3, the figure doubled to 6,000. The sum then rocketed to 41,000 on Jan. 4 and dipped slightly to 36,000 on Jan. 5.

The two days after the airing brought even higher totals: 47,000 page views on Jan. 6 and 57,000 on Jan. 7.


Meanwhile, radio airplay for Kelly has plummeted. On Jan. 7, the first Monday following the airing of Surviving R. Kelly (and as weekday station morning shows returned after the weekend), Kelly’s music totaled 198,000 in all-format radio audience impressions, continuing a sharp decline from 380,000 on Jan. 6 and 806,000 on Jan. 5. On Jan. 3, the day that the series premiered, Kelly’s music totaled 1.25 million in airplay audience.

Even over the past year, radio airplay for Kelly’s music has dropped noticeably. In January 2018, his songs (including with Dion and Public Announcement) averaged 11.1 million in audience each week. By December 2018 (counting the weeks ending Dec. 6-27), he averaged 6.7 million.


Two prominent co-owned Dallas stations have banned Kelly’s music since the series aired. “Smooth R&B 105.7 [KRNB] and K104 [KKDA] made the decision to drop R. Kelly’s music from our playlists due to the outpouring of concern from our listeners regarding Kelly’s alleged sexual assaults of underage girls,” Service Broadcasting Corporation explained in a statement. “There are no immediate plans to drop music from any other artists.”

Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield, Kevin Rutherford and Gary Trust