When living through a painful, disgusting, and abhorrent set of circumstances in one’s life–as we all seem to be doing at once right now–it would be comforting to forget our troubles, turn up the stereo and dance.
Should one decide to take a deeper interest in music culture and read some things on the internet about some of the people that produce those sounds, however, you may just find your day spiraling back into hopelessness. A mass of allegations surfaced last month against OC indie label Burger Records and several of its bands, related to sexual assault on minors. These allegations have immediately resulted in an astonishing series of events that would be difficult to enumerate, as of today.
After first announcing a bizarre plan to change its name and management, with a female-centered offshoot called BRGRGRRL and “safe space” coaches at concert venues, the announced interim manager announced she was stepping away from the mess completely, and the label has said simply that it was folding, answering an inquiry from Pitchfork with an image of Porky Pig saying “Th-th-that’s all folks!”
Musician Justin Champlin, performing under the moniker “Nobunny,” has admitted to serious wrongdoing, and announced “Nobunny is over” in a statement and apology. The Buttertones have cut ties with their former bass player. The Growlers initially denied all charges, only to be confronted with a very specific person about a very specific incident. One member has now left the band. There are MANY other accusations against specific musicians involved in that scene, and big things are happening as a result. Entire catalogs are being scrubbed from streaming services and shops. The Instagram account lured_by_burger_records is presently a central hub of information about the scandal.
Burger Records wasn’t my music scene; I took my finger off the pulse a good twenty years ago. But I can imagine the gut-punch that a lot of people are having right now. It’s a lot of people at once, and widespread enough to make one wonder, what kind of environment IS a music scene anyway? Why should it have to be a scary place for women, for anybody? How does one not lose hope entirely after abuses like this come to light? (OC musician May McDonough has posted some good video essays on the topic recently.)
Whatever loss there might be that the work by these people who did these heinous actions is now going to be less available to audiences, I would argue that there’s going to be a gain for the entire society, including music scene people, as the result of taking sexual assault seriously.
Predation has been a part of rock and roll since it began, going back to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis’ child brides, through the 70s with “baby groupies,” and continuing through today. Hopefully it ends now. Musicians need to learn that they are not exempt, and being a bigshot in a music scene does not give them license to hurt people and live a life without consequences.
Let the next generation of kids coming up see this and understand what it means, so when they start to eye potential conquests/victims, they will know that any exploitative behavior they have in mind will not be sanctioned and protected like it was for the people who came before them. Tie that off, and good riddance to the perpetrators.
This period of time sucks. It does. But the sight of predators being run out of the scene on a rail does not bother me one bit. There was indie music before Burger Records, there will be still, we don’t need ’em.