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Agency powerhouses respond to harassment allegations

Following allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the live business, the major multinationals tell IQ they are more committed than ever to rooting out sexual harassment

By Jon Chapple on 16 Nov 2017

Fyf Fest 2012

AEG has severed ties with Sean Carlson, the founder of LA's Fyf Fest

image © Justin Wise

Representatives from four major multinational booking agencies have told IQ they are intensifying their efforts to ensure the safety of employees and clients amid ongoing allegations of sexual harassment in the music industry.

Following accusations of rape against powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, IQ revealed last month that many women working in live music have experienced inappropriate behaviour from male counterparts, ranging from unwanted comments to physical sexual assault. In the weeks following, allegations of sexual misconduct have claimed the scalps of several high-profile music industry figures, including country music publicist Kirk Webster, Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile, rapper Kodak Black and, most recently, Fyf Fest founder Sean Carlson, who has been let go by promoter Goldenvoice.

Since publishing that article, IQ has been in touch with representatives of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), United Talent Agency (UTA), WME Entertainment and Paradigm – all of whom stressed their respective organisations’ ongoing commitment to keeping their staff and clients safe and fostering an environment where victims feel confident in reporting incidents of sexual assault.

Immediately after the Harvey Weinstein allegations hit, WME’s Ari Emanuel, CEO of newly formed parent company Endeavor, sent an email to the company’s nearly 6,000 employees denouncing the behaviour and reminding them of the resources available if they or a client are faced with sexual harassment.

WME also reveals it has had several meetings with staff to reaffirm its policies and procedures, while an anonymous hotline for employees with complaints, centred on the company intranet, predates the Weinstein scandal.

“Fear and silence is never the answer – you will be heard”

Paradigm’s chairman and CEO, Sam Gores, similarly addressed employees in an all-agents company-wide meeting shortly after the allegations broke.

An official statement from the company says it “supports and endorses the statement made in your previous article by our UK partner Coda”. (Coda director Rob Challice said last month his agency believes in “the importance of open conversation, ensuring that if somebody does feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment, no matter where or when, that they can report in confidence and with no fear for their position”, adding that the music business “has some way to go in getting its house in order”.)

Also addressing the issue head on is CAA, says a spokesperson, who echoes her counterpart at WME by saying the agency is bulking up its already significant guidelines to ensure best practice when dealing with sexual misconduct.

In a statement provided to IQ, the agency says: “We take seriously the responsibility of serving our clients to the best of our ability and providing our employees an environment in which people are treated with dignity and respect. We continually evaluate our company policies and practices to strive to achieve these goals.”

Finally, a source close to UTA directed IQ to an internal memo sent by the company’s CEO, Jeremy Zimmer, on 11 October, in which Zimmer expressed his disgust at the allegations surrounding Weinstein, who “earned his demise”, and said UTA clients and employees should feel confident reporting sexual abuse.

“We take seriously the responsibility of … providing our employees an environment in which people are treated with dignity and respect”

“Let me be crystal clear about who we are – and what we stand for: UTA respects and protects the boundaries of our colleagues and clients,” the letter reads. “UTA does not tolerate behavior [sic] that crosses those lines. UTA will never be silent or complicit. From leaders to assistants, our behaviors must model the highest ethics and standards. Because our values matter.

“If you feel uncomfortable, threatened or exposed, if a client feels that way, if a colleague does – you are safe to come forward. Go to your leaders and mentors. Go to our human resources team. There are always things we can do better – to learn and grow in our choices and behavior. But fear and silence is never the answer… you will be heard.”

And as the entertainment industries continue to be rocked by an almost daily stream of allegations against actors, directors and musicians, it seems female execs increasingly agree with Zimmer: Many say while once there was a culture of silence, the so-called ‘Weinstein effect’ has emboldened them to speak out against harassment in the workplace.

As one high-profile victim of abuse told IQ said last month: “If this was to happen today, I would speak up louder – and wouldn’t worry about the consequences.”


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