Documentary Details Predatory Behavior in Music Industry

Sexual misconduct in the music industry remains a dirty, open secret, where predatory behavior continues to be overlooked, a damning new exposé has found.

A BBC documentary that aired early Wednesday, Music’s Dirty Secrets: Women Fight Back, explores the ugly underbelly of the industry. The 44-minute show sheds light on numerous cases of young female artists and professionals who say they were harassed and coerced by men in powerful positions.

Among the revelations is an exclusive interview with the accuser of the late Erick Morillo, the DJ Kristen Knight, who says Morillo raped her after a party in Miami where they played a gig together, and that a date rape drug had been found in her system after the alleged attack.

The documentary also scrutinizes the behavior of the rapper Octavian, whose debut album release was scrapped by record label Black Butter, a joint venture with Sony Music. And the investigation details the pattern of sexual abuse by grime artist Solo 45, who is currently serving 30 years in prison after being convicted of 21 counts of rape and other offenses, including imprisonment and torture, against four women.

The industry doesn’t escape the tough questions. Two of the world’s leading music companies, Sony Music and Universal Music Group, whose division Island Records had signed Solo 45 in 2014, come under scrutiny in the show based on what they knew about Octavian and Solo 45, and when.

The BBC documentary is just the latest report to highlight sexual misbehavior in the music industry, which is experiencing a delayed #MeToo moment on more than one continent. Since last fall a #MusicTooFrance movement has been pushing to expose artists and label executives that are committing acts of assault or harassment. And on Sunday, a Warner Music A&R executive in New Zealand admitted to a pattern of sexual harassment, resulting in the label terminating his employment.

Through her investigation, BBC reporter Tamanna Rahman says she uncovered “a story the music industry might not want to hear. It’s shocking, it’s traumatic, and it’s about the abuse of women.”

Music’s Dirty Secrets delves into Morillo’s reported sexual battery story, featuring new interviews with two of his accusers, Knight and Litsa Aris. Morillo overdosed on ketamine three days before he was scheduled to appear in court to face rape charges against Knight, triggering waves of tributes for the DJ from friends and fans. “It completely de-validated my experience and what had happened to me,” Knight says.

The BBC’s documentary also quotes research published by the Musicians Union in 2019, which found sexual harassment was widespread in the U.K., with over four in five (85%) victims not reporting incidents.

Rahman also interviewed Emo Baby (whose real name is Hana) about her complicated relationship with Octavian. Hana said that after becoming pregnant in 2019 she had an abortion, and that the rapper attacked her the same day. “I just like wanted to like be held and feel like I hadn’t done something really horrible,” she says in the documentary. “And he pushed me onto the floor, like grabbed me by the face… threw me into the balcony door. My lip was burst and I had several bruises.”

She alleged that a lawyer for Octavian offered her £20,000 ($27,000) to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which she refused. She said she tried to get the attention of his label by including Henry Village, the Black Butter boss, on the distribution of a letter in which she said she was suing for damages related to Octavian’s alleged behavior.

As Octavian’s album neared its release date, Hana posted photos and videos on Instagram depicting the artist’s behavior. “I wanted people to be afraid to enable people like this in the music industry,” she told the BBC. “I wanted people to really think about whose pockets they are putting money into.”

Octavian, in a statement to the BBC, denied his former girlfriend’s allegations, saying “I have not been violent or coercive towards Hana, and I am not a misogynist.”

Black Butter, also in a statement to the network, said it had acted “reasonably and properly.” After Hana posted the photos and videos on social media, the label decided not to release his album and cut ties with the artist, saying in a statement in November: “We do not condone domestic abuse of any kind and we have suggested Octavian seeks professional help at this time.”

The documentary ends with a look at grime star Solo 45, suggesting that Island Records turned a blind eye to a pattern of questionable behavior. A year before Island Records signed the artist, his girlfriend at the time reported him to police in Cyprus for domestic violence, the BBC reports. A court in Cyprus convicted Solo 45 of domestic battery and sentenced him to six months in prison. Shortly after he was released, he signed a record deal with Island.

Rahman says in her report that she spoke to four people at Island who said that at the time he signed to the label, Solo 45 was sending “explicit videos to people in the office…disgusting texts and videos of him with other women.”

Island Records, in a statement to the Corporation, said it “ceased all activity with Solo 45 immediately” when he was charged with rape in Bristol, U.K., in 2017. Before that time, Island “had no reason to suspect he was capable of the appalling criminal behavior for which he was arrested and convicted.”

Solo 45 raped at least four women while he was signed to Island Records, the BBC reported.

A detective who worked on the investigation that led to the rapper’s convictions — who described how the former Island artist engaged in “filmed interrogations” that “turned into rape,” which included water boarding — offered an opinion about why the behavior went unchecked for so long.

“During that time, he became more famous, he became more confident,” Detective Sergeant Ryan Matthews tells the BBC. “He had an air or an attitude of untouchable around him. He felt…he could do what he wanted, and no one would be able to stop him.”

Cold Chisel, Boy & Bear Pay Tribute to Late Producer and Engineer Rick Will

Tributes are flowing for Rick “Soldier” Will, the three-time Grammy Award nominated producer and sound engineer who died last weekend from a suspected heart attack. According to unconfirmed reports, he was 52.

A native of Milford, Ohio, Will put down roots in Sydney, Australia, where he worked with many greats in the rock music scene, from Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel, Boy & Bear and others.

Across a studio career spanning four decades, Will had credits on more than 350 records with the cream of rock and blues, including Nine Inch Nails, Thom Yorke, No Doubt, Ben Harper, T Bone Burnett and Incubus, the latter partnership earning a Grammy nomination in 2020 for “Morning View” (Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical).

Legendary Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes worked with Will on Heat, Two Fires, and Last Wave of Summer. The late music maker was “one of the best sound engineers and the most gentle, sweet guys you’d ever meet,” Barnes recalls.

U.K.-based metal band Skindred recount Rick as “an incredibly talented musician, producer, mixer and engineer. Most importantly he was our friend,” while ARIA Award-winning Australian band Boy & Bear thanked the Will for “the love, talent and humour” he brought to their EP, With Emperor Antarctica.

“Rick was humble,” comments Michael Taylor, Managing Director of Universal Music Australia, in a statement to Billboard. “Many people he worked with didn’t know they were in a room with one of the best engineers in the business – multiple Grammy nominations, ARIA awards, multi-platinum records. And Rick preferred it this way – it kept the team approach and the super positive attitude he wanted in the studio when working…that anything is possible.”

Will leaves behind two sons, Oskar and Olly.

Benee’s Manager Stood Down Following Investigation Into Abusive Behavior

Paul McKessar, the award-winning former manager of Benee and The Naked and Famous, has been let go by his employer CRS Music after his years-long harmful behavior came to light.

Following the “recent disclosures”, reads a statement posted by CRS founder Campbell Smith, “I yesterday stood Paul down from his role at CRS.” His actions, the statement continues, “fell far short of the standards expected by CRS, our clients and the winder community. Paul has resigned as a director of CRS.”

McKessar is the second music industry professional in New Zealand to lose his job after he was implicated in the sexual abuse scandal, the result of an investigation by news title Stuff.

Based on interviews with Openside lead singer Possum Plows and singer-songwriter Lydia Cole, Stuff reported several incidents where McKessar abused his position.

Smith says he apologized to Plows and Cole and promised change at his company, starting with the removal of McKessar and the appointment of an independent specialist investigator to conduct a review of its workplace practises and culture.

“None of this should have happened,” reads Smith’s online post. “I am sorry that I did not ensure that we had a robust code of conduct in place at CRS that might have either prevented this or dealt with it seriously and safely.”

McKessar spent 15 years with CRS, culminating in a win for manager of the year at the 2020 Aotearoa Music Awards. McKessar has since returned the award to the Music Managers Forum.

The Stuff article also exposed the past behavior of Scott Maclachlan, who is best known for discovering and guiding the career of singer-songwriter Lorde.

Warner Music has dismissed Maclachlan from his role as senior vice president for A&R at the label’s Australasia office, after he admitted to years of harmful behavior and said he was in intensive psychotherapy.

Will Leslie Odom Jr. Be the 4th Double Oscar Nominee for Acting & Songwriting in 4 Years?

When the nominations for the 93rd annual Academy Awards are announced on March 15, there’s a very good chance that Leslie Odom Jr. will become a double Oscar nominee for his work in One Night in Miami. He could be nominated for best original song for “Speak Now” (which he co-wrote with Sam Ashworth) and best supporting actor for his portrayal of R&B great Sam Cooke.

If Odom is a double nominee, this will be the fourth year in a row that someone has been nominated for both acting and songwriting in the same year.

For Mudbound (2017), Mary J. Blige was nominated for best song for “Mighty River” and best supporting actress for her role as Florence Jackson. For A Star Is Born (2018), Lady Gaga won for best song for “Shallow” and was nominated for best actress for her role as Ally. For Harriet (2019), Cynthia Erivo was nominated for best song for “Stand Up” and best actress for her role as famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The double nods for Blige, Erivo and now possibly Odom are a sign of the increased opportunities Black performers are being given in film. Moreover, if Odom becomes a double nominee, he’ll become the second actor to do so for a film in which he or she plays a real-life character.

From 1934, when the Oscars introduced their best original song award, through 2016, no one ever received nominations for acting and songwriting in the same year. That’s partly due to the fact that, years ago, singing actors didn’t usually write their own material, but relied on the work of professional songwriters. Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Doris Day are forever linked with Oscar-winning songs, but they didn’t have a hand in writing them. This started to change in the mid-’70s.

Barbra Streisand has straddled the two eras. Seven songs from films in which she starred have received Oscar nominations for best original song. She didn’t write or co-write the first three, but she has co-written two of the last four.

Here are 15 actors who landed songwriting nods but missed out on acting nods for those films. If any of these actors had also been nominated for acting, they — and not Blige — would have become the first to achieve this remarkable double nomination feat.

Keith Carradine: The actor won the 1975 Oscar for “I’m Easy” from Nashville but missed out on a best supporting actor nod for his role as Tom Frank in the ensemble film.

Barbra Streisand: The star won the 1976 Oscar for composing “Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born)” for that film but missed out on a best actress nod for her role as Esther Hoffman Howard. Twenty years later, Streisand was nominated for co-writing “I Finally Found Someone” from The Mirror Has Two Faces but again missed out on a best actress nod for her role as Rose Morgan-Larkin.

Paul Jabara: The songwriter and actor won the 1978 Oscar for writing “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday but missed out on a supporting actor nod for his comic role as Carl, a lovelorn and nearsighted discogoer.

Dolly Parton: The country legend received a best song nod for “Nine to Five” from the 1980 film of the same name in which she held her own with acting pros Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin but missed out on a nod for best supporting actress for her engaging performance as Doralee Rhodes.

Willie Nelson: The country legend received a best song nod for “On the Road Again” from the 1980 film Honeysuckle Rose, in which he starred alongside Dyan Cannon, but missed out on a nod for best actor for his role as Buck Bonham.

Janet Jackson: The star received a best original song nod for co-writing “Again” from the 1993 John Singleton film Poetic Justice, in which she starred with 2Pac, but missed out on a nod for best actress for her role as Justice LaRue.

Björk: The musician received a best song nod for “I’ve Seen It All” from Dancer in the Dark (2000) but was passed over for a best actress nod for her starring role as Selma Ježková.

Eminem: The rapper won the 2002 Oscar for co-writing “Lose Yourself” from the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile but missed out on a best actor nod for playing Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr.

Michael McKean: The actor was nominated for co-writing “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” for A Mighty Wind (2003) but missed out on an acting nod for his role as Jerry Palter.

Jordan Houston III (Juicy J) and Paul Beauregard (DJ Paul): The Three 6 Mafia rappers shared the 2005 award for co-writing “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow, but they each missed out on best supporting actor nods for their roles as Tigga and R.L., respectively.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: The then-couple won the 2007 Oscar for “Falling Slowly” from Once but missed out on nods for best actor and best actress for their roles as Guy and Girl, respectively.

Ryan Bingham: The musician won the 2009 Oscar for co-writing “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart but missed out on a supporting actor nod for his role as the leader of Tony and the Renegades, backup group at the bowling alley.

Common: The hip-hop star won the 2014 Oscar for co-writing “Glory” from Selma but missed out on a supporting actor nod for his role as civil rights leader James Bevel.

ARIA Appoints Annabelle Herd as CEO

Annabelle Herd is tapped to lead trade body ARIA and PPCA, Australia’s labels’ copyright collecting society.

From next Monday (Feb. 1), Herd takes the reins as CEO of ARIA and PPCA, reporting to the boards of the music industry organizations.

With her appointment, announced Wednesday (Jan. 27) from Sydney, Herd becomes the first female CEO at ARIA since it was established in the early ‘80s.

Herd brings a skillset loaded with legal and lobbying work in the nation’s capital, Canberra, and extensive experience in the television industry.

Previously, she carved out a 16-year career at free-to-air Network 10, where she most recently held the post of Chief Operating Officer, tasked with leading its broadcast operations; group strategy; corporate and internal communications; interstate markets; policy, regulatory, compliance and government affairs; and lobbying and stakeholder relations.

And before that, she worked at senior levels with government in Canberra, culminating in a stint as Senior Advisor (Broadcasting and Copyright) and Acting Chief of Staff for then Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Richard Alston AO.

While in the capital, she worked as a government lawyer within the intellectual property branch of the Attorney-General’s Department and Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee from 1996.

A graduate of the Australian National University, Herd holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies, and she’s a board member of Save The Children Australia, and a Council Member of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

“I am delighted to be taking on this role serving and supporting our amazing Australian music industry at a time when the inspiration, connection and joy that our artists and musicians give us is more important than ever,” Herd says in a statement announcing her appointment.

“The last year has been challenging for our artists and members, so I look forward to representing and advancing the interests of those who make our industry so special given the pivotal time that we are in.”

In addition, veteran executive Lynne Small is promoted to Chief Operating Officer of ARIA and PPCA, reporting to Herd. Small has been with the organization since 1996, most recently in the role of GM.

At ARIA and PPCA, Herd succeeds Dan Rosen, who departs after ten years to guide Warner Music Australasia as president.

88rising Signs First-Look Deal With Sony Pictures TV

Sony Pictures TV has signed 88rising, the emergent company that spotlights modern global Asian culture, to a first-look deal. The two will partner to develop scripted series centering Asian and Asian American culture, across all platforms, and 88rising has hired former Imagine and NBC exec Alex Lin to serve as its first development executive for film and television.

Since its founding in 2015, 88rising has quickly risen — pun unintended — from a record label for pan-Asian artists to a music, media and events company that in 2018 became the first to stage an Asian music festival in the United States (Head in the Clouds, dubbed “Asian Coachella,” at Los Angeles State Historic Park). The company, which launched a SiriusXM channel in December, has recently expanded its ambitions to encompass the screen. Its upcoming film projects include We Stan, a comedy about K-pop fans that it is producing alongside A-Major Media and rapper/actor Jon “Dumbfoundead” Park, and an untitled feature written and directed by Justin Chon featuring 88Rising rapper Rich Brian.

“Our company was founded on the goal of providing more authentic representation of Asian and Asian Americans and giving them a platform and an opportunity to be at the center of stories,” 88rising founder and CEO Sean Miyashiro said in a statement. “We are thrilled to expand our work and vision to television with the support of Sony to continue to make content that we want to make.”

“We are incredibly impressed with all that 88rising has achieved in music, media and storytelling,” Sony TV executive vice president of comedy development Glenn Adilman said in a statement. “We love everything they stand for and are thrilled to help bring their very unique and important Asian and Asian American stories to television and for the chance to work with their brilliant roster of artists.”

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Liberty Media SPAC Raised $575M With Last Week’s Public Offering

Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation, the special purpose acquisition corporation of Liberty Media Corp. raised $575 million in its Jan. 22 initial offering on the Nasdaq exchange, the company announced Tuesday (Jan. 26). Liberty Media Corp. owns a majority of SiriusXM and about a third of Live Nation.

Trading under LMACU, Liberty’s SPAC will “identify, acquire and operate” a business with “attractive risk-adjusted returns” within Liberty’s comfort zone: “digital media, media, music, entertainment, communications, telecommunications and technology industries,” according to the prospectus filed with the SEC on Jan. 21.

Liberty Media Acquisition Corp. is headed by Liberty Media’s president and CEO Greg Maffei, a well-connected executive who is chairman of the board for three Liberty Media holdings: concert promoter Live Nation, satellite radio company SiriusXM and online travel company TripAdvisor. Other C-level Liberty executives are also part of the Liberty Media Acquisition Corp. management team.

Once the Liberty SPAC acquires and absorbs a startup — through what’s commonly referred to as a reverse merger — Liberty is expected to operate the new company as a publicly traded business with the expertise it has developed running its expansive portfolio of companies that includes pay-TV channel Starz, the Atlanta Braves baseball team, Formula 1 and cable operator Charter Communications, among others. Essentially, investors are now buying into Liberty’s management ability — not any specific product, since the SPAC target has not yet been identified.

Liberty’s Formula One Group is the SPAC’s sponsor and provided its initial funding while the equity will be held in escrow.

Private companies like SPACs for going public without the cost, regulations and scrutiny of a traditional IPO. They allow everyday investors to own equity in high-growth startups that are normally available only to venture capital and private equity firms. That’s because a SPAC is a “blank check” corporation, a shell company that raises money through an IPO and uses the proceeds to buy a private company. An investor doesn’t know which company will eventually be acquired. Instead, investors back a SPAC based on the experience and expertise of its founders. Lacking a clear ending hasn’t discouraged IPO investors: the number of SPAC IPOs rose from 59 in 2019 to 248 in 2020, according to SPACInsider. Another 76 SPACs have gone public in the first 26 days of January.

Regardless of the target’s industry, a SPAC has one important thing in common with the traditional IPO, says Paul Bernstein, vice chair of Venable’s Entertainment and Media Group, who counsels entertainment clients on acquisitions and capital raises. “You look for the same thing in any company that’s going to go public: growth.”