How do we Put A Stop to Abuse in Entertainment?
I started having conversations several months ago when the story of R. Kelly’s sex “cult” became relevant here in Georgia. He’d allegedly been holding girls in a mansion in Johns Creek, an affluent suburb outside of Atlanta, about 10 minutes from my home. Since, he has been publicly charged of these crimes in the state of Illinois, where some say this reign of terror initiated. I have talked to folks who were not too familiar with his music who had unequivocally written him off as a creep after reading the headlines. In the same breath, I have had nostalgic discussions with family members and close friends, who like myself, shared the works of R.kelly as the score to our high school years.
Here we were, reminiscing about basement parties, cookouts and graduations all accompanied by R.kelly’s I believe I can fly, step in the name of love and Aaliyah’s back back forth and forth.
In the moment, if felt good to think about the good times. Perhaps we werent ready to separate the man from the music. We’d valued our precocious memories, our wistful first loves and first heartbreak experiences over the dismal past and well, present of the person behind the music itself.
I watched the documentary in horror. Not just because the testimonies were so poignant and gut wrenching but because it could've very well been me. I sang in the man’s living room (accompanied by my father on bass); a fundraiser in fact, coincidentally for a children’s dance school. In plain sight, his assistant told me he thought I was talented and wanted to give me his number. I took it and called him the next day. On that call the first thing he asked was my age. I told him. He then invited me to the studio. I’d planned to go. I mean opportunities like this don’t come along everyday right? The next day I lost my blackberry and never retrieved his number again. For some reason, I didn’t seek it out. Be it my short attention span or just God’s grace and mercy, but I think dodged a bullet.
Back then, I fit the profile of some of those girls perfectly. A young, impressionable fan and music enthusiast hungry for stardom and fame! It really resonated with me because I knew that I’d been in a situation that could have had the same results.
I went on after that experience to tour as a backing vocalist with Alicia Keys,write, produce and record music professionally. But Id like to offer a different perspective. I’ve seen first hand some of the flaws of the industry…so Perhaps this is an opportunity for tangible workable solutions to at least try to put a stop to the madness
Vague career pathing within the entertainment industry leads to artist exploitation: The Casting Couch Syndrome
I think the entertainment industry has to take a special responsibility around educating youth about entertainment career paths. The music industry raked in an astounding
$43 billion in 2017, 12% of which was awarded to the artists.This tells me 2 important things: being an artist aint all it’s cracked up to be and aspiring artists need to be charged to think outside the box, get educated around the business of music and find different ways to achieve their musical goals.
The messed up part is, you cant just call a record label and say, hey I’m an artist, I love to sing and write-where do I apply?
Too much ambiguity gives rise to the abuse of power by individuals who take advantage of artists. Here we have a psychopathic, pedophilic music icon using his power and fame to lure young aspiring artists into a position of complete and utter isolation and submission
To put things into perspective, can you imagine dreaming of becoming a world class accountant one day and the only way you believe you’ll get your big break is if you find an individual who can “mold” you and “put you on”? For the most part, whatever you want to be is very clear and attainable. There is an abundance of information around it, clear academic paths you can take to break into the field. Not with music. Too long the antiquated adage is of “its about who you know” is rearing its ugly head. Where are the labels? Where are the resources? The internships, the camps, the clinics, the outreach by labels, agencies and other talent and entertainment entities to literally, make themselves known and go out and grab the youth and show them the way?
I think we are, in real time, watching the beginning of the end of an era. An era where powerful figures in film, like Harvey Weinsten, TV’s dad, Bill Cosby, Daytime TV host Matt Lauer and now, R&B’s “pied-piper Robert Kelly and the King of Pop himself, can no longer avoid the consequences of their actions, geniuses or not; dead or alive. We can no longer rely on the phrase, “separat(ing) the man from the music”. By doing that, we dangerously and naively ignore that both are not mutually exclusive and they ultimately inform the other. We as consumers have a unique upper hand in this matter in that, our views, streams, downloads, clicks and outright dollars can drastically change the fate of an entertainer’s reach and success.
I want to do an entire post on tangible solutions. From how to simply see the signs, to how we protect ourselves and our children!
Would you all be open to reading about that??
Comment below, share your thoughts and experiences…