Why isn t Morgan Wallen on Apple Music?

Morgan Wallen is a popular American country music singer who rose to fame after competing on The Voice in 2014. He gained mainstream success with his 2018 album If I Know Me, which featured hit singles like “Whiskey Glasses” and “Up Down”. By early 2021, Wallen had become one of the most streamed country artists.

However, in February 2021, controversy erupted when a video surfaced showing Wallen using a racial slur after a night out in Nashville. The video sparked outrage and led to major backlash against the singer. Radio stations removed his music from their playlists, and streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music took down his songs and albums.

The incident put Wallen’s burgeoning career in jeopardy, as many condemned his racist language. It highlighted questions about reckoning and forgiveness when a popular artist faces scandal.

The Racial Slur Incident

In February 2021, a video was released by TMZ showing Morgan Wallen arriving home after a night out, using the n-word and other profanity as he spoke with friends (TMZ, 2021). In the video, Wallen can be heard saying “Take care of this p****-ass n*****” when referring to another person in his group. The video footage immediately sparked outrage and backlash against Wallen for using racist language so casually.

The release of the video led to widespread criticism of Wallen’s racist behavior. Many in the country music industry condemned his use of the racial slur, calling it hurtful and unacceptable. Wallen faced significant professional repercussions in the aftermath of the video being made public.

Removal from Radio

Soon after the video surfaced, dozens of country radio stations around the U.S. began removing Wallen’s music from their playlists and announced bans on his music (1). Most notably, 2 of the largest radio chains in the country – iHeartMedia and Cumulus Media – immediately banned Wallen’s music from their stations. iHeartMedia operates over 850 radio stations nationwide and Cumulus Media operates over 400 stations across the U.S. In addition to their bans, other radio chains including Cox Media Group, Univision and Townsquare also pulled Wallen’s music from airplay (2). Many stations issued statements that the ban was indefinite and that they would monitor the situation as it developed to determine when and if to reinstate airplay (1).

By February 2021, Wallen’s songs had been removed from hundreds of radio station playlists, with Billboard reporting a near total collapse of his radio airplay (3). However, as of October 2021 some stations had begun slowly reinstating his music, though the major radio chains largely kept their bans in place (1).


(1) https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/morgan-wallen-banned-country-radio-1227035/

(2) https://www.billboard.com/music/country/morgan-wallen-timeline-racial-slur-video-9587738/

(3) https://variety.com/2021/music/news/morgan-wallen-radio-ban-lifted-1234993485/

Removal from Spotify

On February 3, 2021, Spotify removed Wallen’s music from their curated playlists and algorithmic recommendations after a video surfaced of Wallen using a racial slur (Source). Though his music is still available to stream on the platform, Spotify has banned him indefinitely. A Spotify spokesperson stated that “dangerous content” from Wallen would no longer be promoted. This ban came after other artists like R. Kelly faced similar indefinite bans from curated Spotify playlists over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Removal from Other Platforms

In addition to major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, Wallen’s music was also pulled from other digital services in the aftermath of the incident. SiriusXM and its subsidiary Pandora both announced they would remove Wallen’s music from their playlists starting on February 3, 2021 (source). Similarly, the country music video channel CMT removed Wallen’s appearances from all its platforms.

These additional removals demonstrated how widespread the backlash was against Wallen across the music industry. Major radio, streaming, and video platforms all distanced themselves from the artist within days of the video surfacing. While his music wasn’t completely scrubbed, it was essentially blacklisted from promoted playlists and channels.

Removal from Apple Music

On February 3, 2021, Morgan Wallen’s music was removed from Apple Music playlists after a video showed him using a racial slur (1). Apple Music released a statement saying “In light of Morgan Wallen’s recent conduct, we have removed his songs from all Apple Music editorial playlists and recommendations. We do not tolerate the use of racial slurs, explicit language and inappropriate behavior from our creators.”(2) Wallen’s artist page was still available on the platform, but his songs were no longer being promoted on Apple’s curated playlists.

(1) https://www.brooklynvegan.com/morgan-wallens-music-removed-from-radio-spotifyapple-music-playlists-after-use-of-racial-slur/

(2) https://music.apple.com/us/artist/morgan-wallen/829142092

Wallen’s Response

In an interview with Billboard (source), Wallen finally addressed the video, saying “I was wrong. I was immature. I’ve apologized many times.” He acknowledged that there is no excuse for using that language, saying “I’ve never made an excuse. I never will make an excuse. It should have never been said. I was wrong.”

Wallen has apologized multiple times and taken accountability, telling People Magazine (source), “I let so many people down. I let myself down.” He has pledged to do better, stating: “You learn from it, and you try to become better.” His management company has also made donations to Black organizations on his behalf.

Impact on His Music Sales

Despite the backlash and removal from major streaming platforms, the controversy actually resulted in a huge spike in Wallen’s music sales. According to Rolling Stone, his sales increased 1,220 percent the day after the video surfaced compared to the previous day. His song sales also saw a 327 percent increase during that time.

Per AP News, Wallen’s latest album sold 25,000 copies the week ending February 4, an increase of 102 percent. It ended up breaking the record for most streams in a day previously held by Taylor Swift. Clearly the controversy gave his music sales a huge boost, even with the removal from major streaming services.

Is This Cancellation Warranted?

There are differing perspectives on whether permanently removing Wallen from major streaming platforms is justified. Some argue that his use of a racial slur, regardless of context, warrants cancellation as it perpetuates racism. They point to precedents like R. Kelly being removed from Spotify amid sexual abuse allegations, or XXXTentacion being temporarily removed following domestic abuse charges (though later reinstated). However, others note that many artists have done or said offensive things without facing removal. For example, despite public pressure, artists like Chris Brown have remained on services following domestic abuse incidents. Some claim permanently removing Wallen is overly punitive given his apology and arguments that it was not directed as a slur. They believe lesser measures like temporary suspension or warnings would be more appropriate.[1]

Overall there are reasonable arguments on both sides. While permanent removal sets a strong standard, some believe temporary suspension better allows for redemption and growth. Context also matters, as use of slurs directed at individuals may warrant harsher responses than private conversations. Platforms must weigh competing factors in upholding standards while allowing for rehabilitation. Wallen’s case reignites complicated debates over cancel culture and consequences.


In summary, the controversy sparked by Morgan Wallen using a racial slur has had major impacts on his career and music sales. Immediately after the incident, Wallen faced backlash and his music was removed from major radio stations and streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Despite this, his album sales surged in the aftermath.

Looking ahead, the future is uncertain for Wallen’s career. While he still has a large fanbase supporting him, regaining mainstream promotion and radio play will be an uphill battle. He may continue appealing primarily to his core country fanbase. However, the door is not permanently shut if he demonstrates personal growth and accountability for his actions. Only time will tell if Morgan Wallen can rehabilitate his image and regain his former popularity.