The ADL Center on Extremism (COE) has identified 40 white supremacist artists with a presence on Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming platform. Music has long been an effective way to radicalize extremists, allowing artists to both entertain and indoctrinate vulnerable listeners. At a time of increasing hate-motivated extremist violence, Spotify is not only allowing the racism and incitement of white supremacist music, it is actively promoting that content on its own playlists.
In February 2022, the ADL Center on Technology and Society (CTS) published a report analyzing the Spotify platform rules. The report found these rules to be loosely defined and they did not live up to Spotify’s responsibility as a streaming platform.
Although Spotify updated their rules following the CTS report, adding a much more explicit anti-extremism policy, they do not appear to be strictly enforced. Users who want to proactively report problematic content are only able to do so on the Spotify desktop app and not on the mobile app, which constitutes a roadblock to flagging problematic content. This report seeks to show some of the white supremacist content that remained on the platform as of September 21, 2022.
White Supremacist Music on Spotify:
COE identified white supremacist bands from a range of musical genres and sub-genres popular among extremist artists. More on the three most popular white supremacist sub-genres on Spotify:
Fashwave: A musical sub-genre of the Vaporwave movement (a non-extremist genre of electronic music), Fashwave was created to spread white supremacist ideology (Fashwave is derived from the word “Fascism.”) COE found Fashwave bands on Spotify including Ironmensch, Elessar and OBNX. The genre has been boosted by white supremacist figures including neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, who founded The Daily Stormer. Anglin has called Fashwave “the whitest music ever.”
Rock Against Communism (RAC): RAC is a sub-genre of Punk, and its songs promote antisemitism and racism. Some RAC bands found on Spotify include Kushfrost, Pugilato NSHC, and 13 Knots. The movement started in the British punk scene in the late 1970s. RAC concerts are organized multiple times annually in the U.S.
National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM): NSBM is a sub-genre of Heavy Metal that focuses specifically on promoting fascism and white supremacy. NSBM artists on Spotify include: Übermensch, Wiking 1940, and Mayhem. The sub-genre grew in the early 1990’s with the rise of Norwegian Black Metal (ie. Death Metal). NSBM songs often glorify war.
We found that many white supremacist artists are not only using Spotify to share their music but are also becoming “verified” artists on the platform. Verified artists can expand their fanbases using Spotify’s tools and metrics and can be included in playlists produced by Spotify itself.
It’s very easy to become a verified artist on Spotify, and it’s not clear whether or how the platform exercises any oversight over the process. COE found multiple verified artists who are producing white supremacist music and sharing links in their profiles to other extremist spaces:
- Pugilato NSHC (National Socialist Hardcore) – Pugilato NSHC is a Spanish white supremacist band with 4,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. The band’s lyrics promote National Socialism, and their music is featured on multiple Spotify RAC playlists. The band’s most recent single, titled “A3OB(AZOV),” is a song supporting the fighting of the AZOV Regiment in Ukraine which has been celebrated by many in the white supremacist community for its past connections to neo-Nazism. Another song, “Sacrificio y Disciplina” (Sacrifice and Discipline), references Otto Skorzeny, a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS, as an individual to look up to in terms of fighting their perceived enemies. The lyrics read: “Enemies and trash today, tomorrow and always, We'll stand firm, true dissidents, We'll stand strong, we don't fear death, As Skorzeny said, Live dangerously!” In Pugalito NSHC’s Spotify artist description, there are links to the group’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages which also produce extremist content.
DJ Dark Matter – DJ Dark matter is a producer of Hardstyle music (a heavier version of techno) and his songs featured on Spotify include “International Clique,” which references and includes audio from a speech given by Adolf Hitler, as well as “Open Borders,” a song that includes audio of Tucker Carlson and promotes the racist, xenophobic and antisemitic Great Replacement Theory. DJ Dark matter includes links in his Spotify profile that take listeners to his archive, which houses his more explicit white supremacist music. He also includes links to in his profile to a plethora of other extremist artists’ music and films, making it a powerful resource in radicalizing individuals.
- Wiking 1940 – Wiking 1940 is an Italian NSBM band whose songs are on Spotify. The band is made of two members, one of whom goes by the name Lord Himmler (a reference to the Nazi politician Heinrich Himmler.) Their songs on Spotify include their biggest single, “Sonnenrad,” which is a Nordic symbol synonymous with the far-right. The song opens with audio from an Adolf Hitler speech and includes antisemitic lyrics. Like other NSBM bands, Wiking 1940’s music revolves around war, specifically World War II, and takes the perspective of the Axis Powers. The band’s music is featured on more than 20 playlists on Spotify, including the “Black Metal Essentials” playlist, which is curated by the platform itself (not individual users.)
As in the case of Wiking 1940, verified extremist artists are eligible for inclusion on Spotify’s curated playlists, which can introduce unknowing listeners to extremist music. For instance, the music of NSBM band Wiking 1940 can be found in the Spotify curated playlist “Wiking 1940 radio.” (see image below.) Spotify also recommended to COE’s Spotify account a Fashwave mix playlist that was created by the platform and included multiple white supremacist artists. These “mix” playlists are created by Spotify for individual users based on their listening history.
Spotify users can easily share and create white supremacist-inspired playlists. By searching for the term “Fashwave,” COE researchers found 72 playlists on Spotify. These playlists (made by Spotify users) had titles such as Fashwave, Based Mvsic, Fashwave, 14/88 (an explicitly white supremacist code), or Right Wing Death Squad. Similarly, a search for “Rock Against Communism” yielded five playlists, some of which included extremist imagery such as a totenkopf. Extremist imagery was often found on the “album” covers for white supremacist playlists. In a search for NSBM playlists, we found at least 23 playlists with cover art that included neo-Nazi imagery.
Despite adding explicit anti-extremist guidelines to their content policy, Spotify allows extremist content to flourish. Between the extremist content found in some artists’ bios, the white supremacist messaging in some band’s lyrics and the white supremacist imagery found in the cover art, Spotify still has considerable work to do in implementing its new policy.
Note: Wiking 1940 and Pugilato NSHC's music was removed following our communication with Spotify. While users can still search for these artists and they still appear in playlists, their songs are not currently playable.