#Me Too Controversy Forces Hedley Out Of Junos
By Keith Sharp
With all the controversy surrounding the #Me Too sexual discrimination movement focusing on global political, broadcasting and movie industry targets, it was inevitable that the music industry would eventual come scrutiny – but who would have thought that Vancouver’s Hedley would be the first Canadian band to fall under the #Me Too radar.
Yet a twitter by a young lady, identified only as T (#out/Hedley2k18) has sparked such a controversy that Hedley has now been pulled from the performance lineup at this year’s Juno Awards in Vancouver (Sunday March 4th) even though the band has been nominated for four Juno awards including Fan Favourite and Group Of The Year.
“We are aware of the serious allegations regarding Hedley and we are following the situation very closely,” said CARA president Allan Reid before announcing the decision to withdraw Hedley from the show’s performance lineup.
Considering that voting tabulation has already been concluded for all Juno Awards it seems inconceivable that the band’s four award nominations will be withdrawn. Suffice to say, the band will probably not be in attendance which will make things awkward to say the least if they win any of the four awards they are nominated for.
Latest word is that certain key radio networks have also joined the controversy and are refusing to play Hedley tracks.
In issuing a lengthy statement of defence the band stated “We realize the life of a touring band is an unconventional one. While we are all now either married or have entered into committed long-term relationships, there was a time in the past when we engaged in a lifestyle that incorporated certain rock and roll clichés. However, there was always a line we would never cross.”
The tweets by “T” and the responses she has attracted from other `supposed’ disillusioned fans, many under the age of majority, have provided her with a platform to accuse the band of salacious behavior against certain fans and attracted media attention from the likes of ET and Global Television.
“Enough is enough,” I told Global News,” explained T. “I just went on Twitter and started sharing and asking for people to share their stories. I didn’t expect it to blow up the way that it did.”
“T” says she is being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of responses she has received, some by girls as young as 14 who claim the band offered them alcohol even though they said they were just 14, or received offers to party with the band, even though their mothers were waiting to take them home.
As former director of Columbia Records, Ron Camilleri feels the band’s management is at fault for any inappropriate inter-relationship between band members and under-age fans.
“During my time at Columbia, I saw this situation happen all of the time,” noted Camilleri. “Any good manager or road manager would be quick to step in between band members and under age fans. You just don’t let the potential for that situation to happen.”
It should be noted that at this time, no formal criminal complaints have been logged with the authorities and band members Jacob Hoggard, Terry Mac, Dave Rosin and new drummer Jay Benison fervently deny any of the allegations. claiming they have the utmost respect for their mainly teenage female fan base.
The timing for these allegations could not have come at a worst time for the band, about to launch a major Canadian tour in support of their `Cageless’ album. A key marketing concept behind these tour appearances is the fan’s VIP meet and great packages which probably played a role in sparking the current controversy.
Back in the day, when the primary lure of being in a rock band was the `Sex, drugs, rock n roll’ ethos, a key attraction for musicians was the lure of `groupies’ many of whom were willing to trade sexual favours for back stage passes to meet the bands in the dressing rooms, tour buses and hotel rooms. The majority of these people knew what they were committing too, were compliant and few if any, filed complaints afterwards. Some of these groupies, including Pamela Des Barres (author of I’m With The Band’) and the infamous Plaster Casters, to name just a few, built a notoriety around their sexual exploits. And no rock n roll autobiography is complete with out graphic chapters about sexual carnage.
Yet with the advent of social media, regular fans find they can easily access their favourites directly, and when some bright spark decided bands/artists could make additional money offering VIP passes to these loyal supporters, suddenly, the hard core groupie was replaced by regular fans who many paid as much as a $1,000 to spend precious moments with the likes of Justin Bieber and even Shania Twain.
And therein lies the problem. Many fans who pay these exorbitant VIP prices expect more than the cursory selfie or autograph. Some feel they have purchased attention from the band and many, I suspect, get a little turned off when all they do get is a quick snap shot and a scribbled autograph.
That is not to say that “T” is out of line with her criticism, it is possible that Hedley band members did act inappropriately with certain young fans, and if that is the case, then moving forward they are going to have to be much more diplomatic. But it is also possible that certain fans may have had a negative reaction to their encounters and have found an outlet to vent their feelings.
How long this current controversy rages remains to be seen. Certainly, if no criminal charges are laid, this will just go down as unwanted criticism at a time when the band is enjoying a high profile. Is “T” really representative of Hedley’s fan base which in the past has been fanatically supportive of them (they won Top Group and Top Concert Act 2018 Music Express awards, which pulled over 97,000 ballots), this remains to be seen.
But what has been established is that all artists and groups who pitch VIP meet-and-great packages, need to be on their best behaviour and be totally respectful of their fans. After all, the #MeToo movement has proven that you only need one complainant with a Twitter account to create havoc.