In response to Twin Cities Survivors:
We’re sorry we haven’t been more aware of the painful experiences women in our community have been facing, many within the context of interpersonal relationships within the Twin Cities music scene. We’re sorry that it hasn’t always felt safe or been easy to tell us when something is wrong, and that we didn’t have the policies or protocols to hold ourselves and our artist partners to a higher standard. The people we work with are from our communities and are representative of all the good and bad it entails. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be a positive force within the spaces we have influence, and we’re committed to doing so.
These past five months we have:
Enhanced vetting of new artists so we have a deeper understanding of who we’re sharing our platform with.
Established and formalized Artists standards which allow us to hold our artist partners accountable. This could involve anything from mediation, and making amends up to and including reevaluation and conclusion of our working relationship.
Engaged in third party staff-wide training on allyship, which we understand to mean working with others towards the common interest of justice and equity in the spaces we occupy.
Begun educating ourselves on transformative and restorative justice practices and consulted experienced practitioners.
Begun working with a third party investigation firm to field artist misconduct claims, this system will be up and running early 2021.
And we’ve started developing systems to navigate conflict, and address harm if and when it happens.
Contacting survivors unsolicited could be harmful, and it’s not ok without consent. We have been in contact with people who have expressed a willingness to engage, and discuss what can be done. We have not declined any meetings, and we will continue to be open to any productive conversation.
In regards to Grieves, he has already fulfilled his contract and is under no further obligation to the label.
We agree that a mutually approved third party is both welcome and necessary to facilitate communication between us. We’d like to work with an individual or organization with experience successfully navigating complex issues through a Restorative or Transformative Justice lens. We would like a third party to allow us to move at the speed of trust, maintain the integrity of the process, help us understand how we may have contributed to the conditions that cause harm and address them if we haven’t already.
We’re aligned with creating safer spaces, becoming better listeners, and conducting business responsibly. We’re open to listening and willing to work with anyone who shares that agenda and those goals.
We’ve been learning a lot these past several months. One of our takeaways has been that we can only address what we’re aware of, and it’s our responsibility to become more aware.
Relationships with our artists have always been based on trust and an implicit understanding that we share common standards of behavior. By not explicitly making our expectations clear, having procedures in place to confirm our expectations are being met, or policy in place to address when those we work with fall short we’ve failed to bring our impact in alignment with our intention.
The artist partner standards and artist vetting practices we’re sharing today aren’t a point for point response to situations or people we’ve worked with, they reflect a larger effort to increase our awareness and prevent harm. These are living documents that will change and evolve as necessary. Special thanks to the resources throughout our community and across the country for your valuable insight and education, we appreciate you making us better.
Additionally, we're developing the protocol for following up on reports of misconduct by artists and their essential personnel, that we become aware of, in ways that center survivors.
These are early days in an ongoing process. If you want to talk, we’re listening.
Artist Vetting Procedure
- A third party will research prospective artists red flagging domestic violence, sexual violence, and discriminatory behavior.
- A comprehensive review of the social media and online presence of the artist and their essential personnel.
- An internal review of previously released content by the artist and their essential personnel, if applicable.
- An extended interview process with the artist that includes direct questioning regarding any history of abuse or discriminatory behavior by the artist and their essential personnel. Failure to disclose this information will cause our working relationship to be reevaluated and potentially concluded.
Red flags that arise will be addressed on a case by case basis. We will not move forward in the signing of artists who are not in alignment with our core values and artist partner standards, which prohibit discriminatory practices, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse.
Artist Partner Standards
- Be Responsible. The partnerships between Rhymesayers and its artists are rooted in responsibility. Part of being signed is being granted access to our platform and all that entails, which includes access to our community and the dedicated team of people working to amplify your voice in the world. Being responsible includes being diligent in your awareness of, and respecting the power dynamic between yourself and our community. Our expectation is that you will be responsible with this opportunity, and the power that comes along with it.
- Be Principled. We don’t expect anyone to be perfect, as a human you will make mistakes sometimes, and when you do we will help you how and when it’s appropriate. This help will not extend to assisting you at the expense of someone you have hurt. Before it gets to that point, if you need help please ask, conversely if we become aware of concerning behavior we will initiate a conversation with you and offer resources to address the situation. If an isolated incident is particularly egregious, or a pattern of unacceptable behavior emerges, our relationship will be reevaluated and potentially concluded. Our expectation is that you do your best to live a principled life.
- Be Authentic. This label was built by the voices of artists who dared to be themselves, even when it wasn’t popular and by doing so empowered hundreds of thousands of fans to do the same. We believe in the power of your truth and your distinctive voice. Our expectation is that you bring your whole self to your work.
- Be Intentional. Great art frequently pushes boundaries, and as we encourage your full self expression, we will also question content that may be objectionable. What is of importance to us is not just what you’re creating and promoting, but why. Our expectation is that you deeply consider what you are putting into the world and your intention behind it.
Significantly, we do not condone discriminatory practices, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse. If you engage in or are complicit in these forms of misconduct our relationship will be reevaluated and potentially concluded. Our community is important to us and we will not compromise their safety or tolerate their mistreatment in order to benefit ourselves or the artists we work with.
The updates we had hoped to share this week require some additional time. To give some context, we’re working on Artist Partner Standards, Artist Vetting Practices and the launch timeline for the newly formed Fifth Element Foundation. There isn’t a blueprint or existing model for some of this work we’ve embarked on but this process is a priority for us and sometimes will take longer than we would like. We look froward to sharing more of the work we’ve been doing in the coming weeks.
We’ve received some questions regarding our ongoing commitment to change. First, thanks to those of you who reached out. We have been working diligently, and communicating that would be helpful. It has taken us some time to thoughtfully consider all that’s been said and put together thoughtful solutions. We’re not trying to rush it so it looks good, we’re trying to get it as right as possible, and our intention is substantive change. While we had hoped for something sooner, we will be releasing our plans going forward by the end of this month.
In the meantime, here are some of the steps we’ve taken since our statement:
- A women-only breakout meeting that was attended by all women staff and artists to create a safe space to share their experiences, voice concerns, and discuss desired outcomes for the future.
- Numerous internal staff-wide sessions to assess who and where we are as a company, how we got here and where we want to go, as well as charting how to get there.
- Senior leadership is undergoing additional training to acquire the tools needed to operate in alignment with our values.
- Committed to creating a position dedicated to Community Responsiveness and Equity.
Hopefully you can appreciate the complexity and gravity of all the things we’re currently working on in concert during this unprecedented and challenging time. Transparency and communication with the community are important to us and getting good at it won’t happen overnight. With that being said, 80 days is too long. We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you.
Abuse of women is not acceptable and is not in alignment with our values.
The reports of abuse that have come to light this past week are not things that we’ve ever tacitly condoned or were previously aware of. We have taken the last few days to process these reports because we felt it was important to allow survivors the opportunity to speak and for us to listen, discuss and reflect before adding our voice to the discussion.
To the survivors in our community, we know you’ve been hurt; our community is not whole without you, or until you are whole. We’ve always sought to create an environment that is safe and inclusive, but this week has shown us where we have failed.
To abusers, racists, and those engaged in predatory behavior we don’t want you as artists, fans or affiliates and as we become aware of you, you will be held accountable.
We also need to hold ourselves accountable for writing off what we interpreted as an artist’s approach to humor and entertainment, when it actually harmed survivors and perpetuated an environment rife with misogyny. We apologize for the harm this has caused. We understand that we have a responsibility to be more intentional with our actions and our platform moving forward.
Since these reports began surfacing we’ve been listening, reflecting and engaging in conversation with our staff, artists, and community members to determine how we can proactively address racism, sexism, misogyny, and the toxic masculinity that pervades our culture. We cannot do that work alone and are aware that the solutions are as complex as the issues.
We have a long tradition of working with very intentional artists and rarely have ever felt the need to discuss what those intentions are. In listening and reflecting over the last few days, we acknowledge that we failed to not only vet the signing of Prof but also calling into question the intentions behind his music, messaging and content more strongly. We, like many others, separated the music from potential behavior. Thus, we were complicit in promoting and marketing music that perpetuates misogyny.
Effective immediately we have decided to stop, where we can, the release of the upcoming Powderhorn Suites album and end our relationship with Prof and Stophouse Music Group. We have also decided to end our working relationship with Dem Atlas, given recent reports of his behavior.
The work going forward begins with an unflinching look at how and where abusers live among us, and how we can best support survivors of abuse, but also what actionable steps can be taken to promote the safety and upliftment of Women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA community moving forward.
Additional immediate actions:
- Stronger and more thorough vetting of new artists and any associated personnel.
- Challenge the intention behind any questionable music, art and content.
- Create a written standard for artists behavior and cut ties with artists that are unwilling to adhere to those standards.
- Greater transparency and communication with the community about the progressive and positive changes we’ve made and continue to make.
- Creation of a fund that awards grants for music, art & business initiatives by Women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA community.
These actions are just the first step in what will be an ongoing process to do better and work with you to build the community we deserve.