Head of Big Music PR Firm Steps Down After Accusations of Sexual Assault

jpmitchell By jpmitchell, 21st Jan 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3vm1whoz/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Media

Shockwaves are being felt throughout the music industry as several high profile musicians and other women in the business come forward with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against the CEO of a major music public relations firm, exposing the pervasive sexism and male-dominated power in the industry to the rest of the world. Many are calling the scandal the musical equivalent of the Cosby débâcle.

in 2016 are women still expected to sleep with male bigshots in order to make it in the music industry?

The CEO of Life or Death Public Relations, a PR firm that represents more than one-hundred popular music acts including Killer Mike, D’Angelo, and Speedy Ortiz, has stepped down after accusations of sexual harassment and assault by three musicians surfaced on Twitter Monday and Tuesday. Heathcliff Berru resigned from the top post at Life or Death PR after allegations made by Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman on Twitter that he “RUBBED my ass BIT my hair at a bar a couple of years ago. Coffman did not name Berru initially, only referring to him as a “popular music publicist.” However, a few hours after the initial Tweet, and encouragement from her followers, she named the perpetrator as Berru.

Was just re-telling/re-remembering a story abt how a very popular music publicist RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar a couple years ago

— Amber Coffman (@Amber_Coffman) January 19, 2016

It was Heathcliff Berru, at Life or Death PR and MGMT

— Amber Coffman (@Amber_Coffman) January 19, 2016

Best Coast’s Beth Consentino chimed-in on Coffman’s Twitter feed at approximately 12:30am Tuesday morning saying that she, too, had experienced sexual misconduct by Berru, stating:

@Amber_Coffman good for you for doing this. I was too freaked out to ever say anything. Seriously he’s not a good person on any level.

— Best Coast (@BestCoast) January 19, 2016

Yasmine Kittles of Tearist Tweeted yesterday afternoon about Berru:

Thank you @Amber_Coffman in 2009 he grabbed my ass and then held me down onto my couch as he unzipped his pants &forced my hand on his dick.

— TEARIST (@_TEARIST_) January 19, 2016

After Kittles told the band’s manager at the time of the incident, his response was:

.@Amber_Coffman I told our “manager” at the time who said “we are going to have to get over that arent we” if I cared about my band.

— TEARIST (@_TEARIST_) January 19, 2016

In an attempt to get more information about Life or Death Public Relations and its complete artist roster, I visited their web site at wegetpress.com. As of approximately 7:45 p.m. central time on Tuesday night, the site was shut down, showing only a “maintenance” notice. As of 9:30 p.m. central time tonight, the site is still shut down.

Life or Death PR released the following statement earlier yesterday:

Life or Death has a zero tolerance policy for the type of conduct alleged in today’s on-line postings. We take these allegations very seriously.

The men and women who make up this company do not, and will not, condone or tolerate any conduct described in the on-line postings. Life Or Death is 3 men and 3 women who are committed to promoting art and serving the clients that we’re so privileged to represent. We are taking measures to ensure that the alleged behavior did not, and will not, make its way into company operations or impact our commitment to promoting art and assisting our clients.

We are grateful to Heathcliff Berru for all the work he’s done to date and his Be creative vision at the company. We appreciate and support his decision to step down as CEO of Life Or Death.


Earlier today, it was reported that other women have stepped forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Berru. Danger Village Publicist Beth Martinez also tweeted on Monday in response to Coffman that she could verify Berru's behavior through "personal experience."

Judy Miller Silverman, a publicist for Motormouth Media, tweeted on Tuesday that she had heard numerous stories from women in the music industry who had been harassed or assaulted by Berru.

Other women who have come forward with personal stories about Berru include Martika Finch, a coordinator for the Bonaroo Festival; musician Roxy Lange; and writer Theodora Karatzas.

This story is basically about abuse of power and how some men think it's okay to sexually molest and assault women who they perceive as having a subordinate status to them. Is this "sleep with me to get ahead" mentality pervasive among men in the music industry, or is Berru just an anomaly? Unfortunately, it's probably the former. How many women in music industry have had similar experiences to those who were unlucky enough to meet Berru? I'm sure there are too many to count. Perhaps it's time for more women in positions of power in music and other media in order to put a stop to this abuse.

What comments about or suggestions do you have about solving this problem?

Tags

Bands, Heathcliff Berru, Life Or Death Public Relations, Music, Musicians, Public Relations, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Misconduct

Meet the author

author avatar jpmitchell
I have been a freelance writer and photographer since 1989, mainly writing about music. I have written features on everyone from Gals Panic to Tori Amos, the Meat Puppets, and Bob Mould, to name a few

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