Hold artists accountable for damaging actions


Tommy Verhey

The only way to stop the artists from these actions and posts is to stop feeding their fame.

Tommy Verhey, Director of RubicOnline

Popular public figures span every talent and profession – politicians, athletes, performers, and artists. The list goes on. However, when it comes to the power of fame and international impact, these cherished celebrities and their actions can cause severe emotional pain and confusion.

Kanye West, one of the most decorated and famous rappers of the past 15 years, has been active across Twitter and Instagram, displaying malicious messages about several groups of people. In the last month alone, Kanye posted screenshots on Instagram of personal text messages with ex-wife Kim Kardashian over a seemingly never-ending custody battle, a picture of a t-shirt with a “White Lives Matter” design, an anti-Semitic paragraph against Jewish people, and many other controversial messages. Still, the artist does not seem to understand how hurtful his messages are and instead attributes backlash to a conspiracy against him or as examples that further prove he’s right.

While Kanye may look like one extreme example of artists coming under fire, others include Travis Scott, after his Astroworld Festival killed ten concert-goers in 2021, and Rex Orange County, who was recently charged with six counts of sexual assault. Notable artists like Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, and Chris Brown have also been criminalized and outcasted for impermissible actions.

The moral of the story is that these people, all in powerful and important societal roles, make decisions that reflect negatively not only on their character but also on their fans.

Yet each month, Kanye West receives 50.9 million listeners, Travis Scott receives 35.9 million listeners, and Rex Orange County receives 20.6 million listeners. While there is undoubtedly some overlap in fan base, these artists span roughly 100 million total listeners per month. The influence they have is undeniable.

While these artists may not realize it, even the most minor actions can have lasting effects on listeners. A 2009 study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that teenagers who frequently listen to music that references marijuana are more likely to use the drug than teens with less exposure to those types of lyrics. Because of their commonality and popularity among teenagers, artists serve as role models for the current and future global community and need to start acting like it.

While artists need to become more apologetic for their words and actions, listeners need to stop supporting celebrities who consistently stretch the limits of common decency. Don’t just boycott an artist for a few months, because eventually, the public forgets about the harmful actions they made and continues to celebrate (and support) the artist.

While Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Rex Orange County have good music and are world-renowned artists, showering them with love after horrible acts must come to an end. Once multiple mistakes are made, it is clear that these artists’ interest does not rely on their fans. Listeners always come back for more when a new album is released and their name begins to trend and to make a difference, that needs to stop.

Earlier today, Kanye West’s school – Donda Academy – shut down because of his antisemitic comments, causing the rapper to lose millions of dollars. This is an example of one of the many steps in making sure these artists understand the consequences of their actions.

The only way to stop the artists from these actions and posts is to stop feeding their fame. Not buying their music, engaging with their platforms, or investing in their brands will show that the fanbase and supporters do not encourage their personal actions, and careers and images will take a significant hit. Halting listens on streaming services and concerts will relay the message that these artists must take responsibility for their actions.