You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Former Music Executive: ‘We Must Come Forward and Name Our Abusers’ (Guest Column)

I grew up in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, N.Y. Back then, the boys in the ’hood dubbed me Bossy Bebe. “Bossy” was a term of shame for a girl — we weren’t supposed to be bosses. I cried when they teased me, but I had a clear vision of how things should be. At age 7, I heard a song on the radio and sang along. I knew most of the words. It was a hit by R.B. Greaves called “Take a Letter Maria.”

In my wildest fantasies, I never imagined that one day the man who produced that record would ask me to take a letter. In 1987, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun hired me to be his secretary. I was the No. 2 person working in his office and the job gave me a front-row seat to the inner workings of how higher-level executives behave at corporations. During 12-hour days of answering their phones and carrying out their orders, I saw everything. In 1988 on a trip to Allentown, Pa., to see rock band Skid Row along with two VPs and an A&R exec, Ahmet and I were standing by the bar when he put his hand between my legs, grabbing my panties, trying to pull them off. He then worked his hands up my shirt so fast, I had to fight him off. The senior VP was standing there laughing. I was 25 years old, and Ahmet was 64.

After I was able to wrestle free, I went backstage. My face was red and my adrenaline was pumping. I pushed the VP and began screaming at him. The following Monday, when I complained to the other senior members at the company, I was told I was free to leave. I thought this was the price of admission to fulfill my dream of working in the music business.

Whenever I complained about sexual harassment to the president or chairman of a company, I was fired. I was never offered a settlement or given a severance package. In one case, the head of a company made me apologize to my abuser. They began a whisper campaign so I would be unable to get jobs at other labels. Along the way, however, I encountered some men who were decent and good executives, and I also helped many of my male colleagues rise to the highest levels in the business. But most did not stand up for me. Rather, at every label I worked for, I experienced gender hypocrisy; I had to take lower-paying, lower-title jobs, with smaller expense accounts. And my acts were the last on the list to be considered as potential signings.

The narcissistic males were petty and condescending. I was called names like “bitch,” “cunt” and “troublemaker.” I was labeled “ambitious,” as if that were a dirty word. Ironic considering each company had a safe stuffed with cash earmarked for dirty laundry as well as gambling, prostitutes and drugs. Some of these men regularly engaged in sexual payola with artists. This was common knowledge in the business, and their corporate bosses enabled it because of the obscene amounts of money being made in the industry’s CD-selling heyday.

The music business, like the Catholic Church, moves its abusers around from label to label. The only way this will ever change is if the heads of Vivendi, Sony and Warner Music Group all start vetting the men running their companies. And not by the entertainment lawyers that own this business but by white-shoe law firms that engage in complete transparency. I call upon Vivendi [CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine], [Sony CEO] Kaz Hirai and [Warner Music Group owner] Len Blavatnik to do the right thing.

As women, we don’t want special treatment — we want equal pay and job opportunity. To say all women have experienced sexual harassment isn’t enough; we must come forward and name our abusers.

Dorothy Carvello spent 20 years in A&R. A former staffer at Atlantic, Giant, RCA and Columbia Records, her forthcoming book “Anything for a Hit” tells of her experiences.

More Music

  • Billie Eilish

    Billie Eilish Fans to Receive Perks Due to Chicago Venue Change

    Billie Eilish and her music agents at Paradigm are experiencing what most would call a first class problem. The demand to see the 17-year-old singer live has prompted a change of venue for her June 9 show in Chicago — from the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom to the 20,000-plus-seat United Center arena. The last-minute venue change [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres Buys Adam Levine’s Beverly

    Adam Levine Cashes in on Sale of Max Mutchnick’s Former Mansion to Ellen DeGeneres

    Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo have sold a baronial Beverly Hills mansion with an illustrious chain of ownership for a reported $45 million to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The mainstream radio rock star, who, it was announced Friday, will not to return as a coach on “The Voice,” and the Namibian-born Victoria’s Secret [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • Dan the Automator

    Heeding the Call of Olivia Wilde, Dan the Automator Scores 'Booksmart'

    Dan The Automator, aka Daniel Nakamura, knows a thing or two about setting a mood. The Bay Area-based producer has worked on projects such as Gorillaz’s debut album, Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul) and multiple projects with rapper Kool Keith. Now, Nakamura has set his sights on film scoring, and will make his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content