In the wake of the white nationalist rally and ensuing violence in Charlottesville last weekend, Spotify announced it would remove music that promotes white nationalism from its libraries, as Apple had done several years before.
Before the move, Digital Music News had found that 37 bands associated with neo-Nazi and other hate groups, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were available on the streaming platform.
A spokesperson for Spotify told Billboard after the removal that “material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion and sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us.”
But, much like the white nationalist site Daily Stormer’s move to the dark web this week after GoDaddy and Google denied its domain registration, removing white power bands from Spotify may be a little like playing whack-a-mole, with these bands simply popping up on different platforms. And “white power” bands themselves — as well as those who study them — say that music was never really found on Spotify and Apple to begin with.
“We never used their services,” Cybernazi, an instrumental electronic band that’s part of a new “fash wave” genre of music favored by the next generation of white nationalists, wrote in an emailed statement. The band said “we realized that our surveillance depends on building our own virtual infrastructure.”
Cybernazi’s music, much of which adulates Adolf Hitler, was previously available on Bandcamp, but has since been removed there; it is still available on SoundCloud and YouTube, where the band’s songs have hundreds of thousands of views.
A YouTube spokeswoman told the New York Times that the service has “clear policies that prohibit content like hate speech” and that it removes content flagged by users.
Freedom of speech advocates have criticized moves like these after Charlottesville, saying that tactics used to clamp down on speech by neo-Nazis could later be used against others.
But C. Richard King, a culture, a gender and race professor at Washington State University who studies white supremacist movements, said the removals “do not and cannot stop the circulation of the music, stop its use for recruitment, community building, and financing of the movement, or eradicate the ideology, anymore than it can snuff out the desire of some to produce and consume it.”
He added, however, that the moves by Spotify and Apple “may make [the music] harder to find, driving it to other sites.”
In addition to SoundCloud and YouTube, white power music can be bought from independent music labels like the Maryland-based Label56, which sells a wide range of white nationalist music, including Oi! and RAC (Rock Against Communism), two punk rock genres that have historically attracted skinhead fans.
Label56 also reportedly signed Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed six people at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in 2012, to a music contract before the attack. Label56 did not respond to NewsHour’s request for comment.
Label56 has a mobile app that was previously available on the Google Play store, but it was taken down from the store earlier this year after a complaint from the Anti-Defamation League. That app, which includes not only white power music but also messaging about a supposed “war on whites,” is now available instead on apps.appmakr.com, where it can be downloaded for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
And white power music can also be bought from independent music distributions stores such as the New Jersey-based MiceTrap Distribution LLC, which sells “Angry Aryan” T-shirts and MP3s from the white power bands Aggravated Assault and Chaos 88, whose music is regularly shared on Stormfront and the website of the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi party.
When contacted by the NewsHour in February, a representative from MiceTrap said that after seeing declining sales for more than a decade, the company had seen a “dramatic” uptick in interest over the last four years.
The representative, James, who asked that the NewsHour not use his last name for fear of personal attacks, wrote that along with fewer competitors, the “biggest driving force for the sales increases seem to be the constant leftist media propaganda and liberal attacks on free speech that drive people to become more extreme than they normally would be like to be.”
“When people are told they aren’t allow to have access to music (or any content for that matter), human nature drives them to seek it out,” he wrote.
NewsHour could not independently verify that MiceTrap sales had increased.
Most of the music available on MiceTrap is made by older white power bands, James said, in large part because there are few new or active bands on the scene. The top-selling item at MiceTrap in February was the German neo-Nazi singer Hassgesang’s “B.Z.L.T.B.” album, which was recorded in 2003. (That album is also currently available on Amazon.)
In a follow-up conversation Thursday, James wrote that he was appalled by the violence in Charlottesville and that MiceTrap was “a business, nothing more.”
“I’m not a white supremacist or a racist,” he added. “The business has merchandise that is 100% legal.”
Available items on the site as of Thursday included the CD “Blood and Honour” by Skrewdriver, once the most prominent white nationalist rock band in the world, along with MP3s of the song “Triumph of the Will” by RAC band Das Reich, whose name is presumably taken from the Das Reich armed division of the Nazi party.
But two other people who track hate groups said that keeping white power music off Spotify and Apple does make a difference. Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, which filed the complaint to Google Play against Label56’s app, said removing the music from streaming platforms could make it less convenient to “accidentally come across it, and potentially get turned on to it, especially younger audiences.”
Mark Potok, a fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, echoed that sentiment, stressing that it could prevent “naive listeners” from getting interested.
“The flip side, of course,” he said, “is that prohibition can make it seem more sexy and appealing to many.”