BENEE’s manager Paul McKessar admits ‘no excuse’ for crossing boundaries as NZ investigation shines light on harassment
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Award-winning artist manager Paul McKessar has issued a public apology and backed calls for progress after an expose into New Zealand’s music community uncovered numerous cases of sexual harassment by himself and other industry professionals.
The behaviour of McKessar, longstanding director of CRS Management, is brought into focus through an investigative piece published in NZ’s Stuff, which found the industry was “rife” with sexual harassment and exploitation.
Over the course of its months-long probe, Stuff reporters captured the stories of women and non-binary people in the local industry who’d experienced workplace harassment.
Openside lead singer Possum Plows and singer-songwriter Lydia Cole spoke out about their troubling experiences with McKessar over the past decade.
Their stories tell of abuse of power.
“You’re looking to this person to guide you, and introducing new things to you. Everything’s new and you’re the one that doesn’t know any better,” said Cole.
In a post on Instagram, McKessar addresses the allegations and calls for sweeping changes.
“I’m truly sorry for the pain I caused Possum and Lydia,” he writes.
“There’s not excuse for crossing professional boundaries. I am continuing the personal work required to be a better and more accountable member of the music community. I also appreciate it shouldn’t take a brave stance to enact change, and I hope theirs brings more progress to our entire community. I wholeheartedly apologise to them both.”
McKessar is one of the highest profile artist managers in the business, with a string of international breakthroughs on his CV.
Last year, he won Manager of the Year at the Aotearoa Music Awards for his work guiding the career of BENEE, whose breakthrough 2019 song ‘Supalonely’ was one of biggest viral hits to make the leap from TikTok to the sales charts.
In an update on Instagram, McKessar apologises to the Music Managers Forum for “not meeting the standards of their code of conduct” and relinquishes the 2020 music manager award.
In his 15 years with the company, McKessar has also managed the likes of Miss June and Brooke Fraser, and high-flying homegrown act Naked and the Famous.
A follow-up statement from CRS Management founder Campbell Smith reads: “All of us at CRS Management have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for our clients. We have not always met this standard.”
Calls for change are mounting after the investigation also addressed the harmful behaviour of Lorde’s former manager Scott Maclachlan, tracing back over several years.
Speaking to Stuff, he admitted: “I do accept the harmful impact of my past behaviour and I try every day to repair the damage and prevent it happening again.”
McLachlan, who said he was in intensive psychotherapy, was let go by Warner Music Group.
“In 2018, with the assistance of external counsel, we investigated what we believed to be an isolated incident, and we went further than advised with our disciplinary actions,” reads a statement from WMG.
“Now that we’ve learned about these additional incidents, we’ve terminated Scott Maclachlan’s employment contract with immediate effect.”
Read the Stuff report here.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.