Billboard is casually asking music execs to guess if a woman was abused

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Billboard is an august and historic music business publication.

Since its first ever issue was published a (pretty astonishing) 121 years ago, the magazine has honorably and authoritatively carved out its reputation as the ‘bible’ of the US music industry.

There are writers employed there today who uphold these traditions with impressive skill – journalists who are even-handed without being toothless in their pursuit to hold a mirror up to the business.

Witness a couple of recent examples: Glenn Peoples’ intriguing discussion of how cash-for-inclusion may be corrupting the world of streaming playlists or Ed Christman’s breaking news that The Offspring are selling off their catalogue for $35m.

Proper journalism, asking smart questions and arming the wider business with crucial information. It happens there every week.

Sadly, that simply can’t be said for… whatever the hell this is.

As spotted by Hits Magazine in the US, Billboard is currently asking ‘top music-industry executives’ to fill out a confidential questionnaire infatuated with the tackier side of the business.

Questions include:

  • Who is the most overpaid executive in the music industry?
  • Who is the most devious executive in the music industry?
  • Who is the most press-hungry executive in the music industry?

God knows which kind of top-level impresario would have any truck with this mudslinging meanness, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

(Although, by definition, surely it’s pretty devious to slag people off on an anonymous forum that you suspect will later be published in front of your peers…)

The mean-spirited side of the questionnaire starts plumbing putrid tabloid depths when the following question arises.

  • In three years, Justin Bieber will be: (i) Headlining arenas or (ii) On a VH1 reality show?

Is it me, or is that quite a chunk more ‘TMZ’ than ‘Billboard’?

No matter: what Billboard chooses to do with Billboard is entirely Billboard’s business.

Presumably, they’re cooking up a feature which will really blow the roof off what anger-fantasist loons think of a 21-year-old they’ve never met, and salaries they’ll never get close to.

(Also, if Billboard literally prints its list of ‘most press-hungry executives’ within pages so reliant on executives willing to be featured, the resultant fireworks should at least be a spectacle to drink in.)

Sadly, that’s not the worst of it. Things then sink into a realm of quite serious malignity.

One of the flippant queries in the survey regards an ongoing legal case.

One that, whichever angle you take on it, is rooted in horrible human suffering:

  • ‘Who do you believe: (i) Kesha (ii) Dr. Luke?

If the plainness of the question has bamboozled you, it’s probably deliberate. So allow me:

Billboard is asking ‘top music-industry executives’ to speculate on whether a woman was the victim of sustained sexual abuse, or whether she is unjustly defaming a man with a terrible crime.

The details of this case are so unsavoury and concerning that even the online gossip pit Jezebel was sensible enough to write: ‘The best way to keep your faith in human decency intact is to stay, far far away from the Dr. Luke/Kesha lawsuit saga. Every single day the story gets uglier and sadder.’

A sincere plea to Billboard, then: will someone please question what the best outcome is here?

You still have time. You say that the results of this questionnaire will be published in your Sept. 19 issue.

In the run-up to print, you may have at your disposal a headline saying something to this effect: X % of music business power players suspect a woman is lying about being raped.

I didn’t enjoy writing that. I can’t believe anyone with any grain of humanity enjoyed reading it.

Do you really, really want to be associated with this level of darkness?

Does this kind of sinister guesswork tessellate whatsoever with 121 years of methodical, stimulating journalism?

Do the right thing. Bin it.

Also, have you considered the prospective fallout from decent people in the industry?

Because, God knows, there’s some massive music biz egos out there – but I haven’t come across many actual psychopaths.

I therefore suspect that no semi-ethical person will fill in the full extent of this survey.

If so, is Billboard going to suggest to the world that its results represent the great and good of the blockbuster music industry?

Be careful. Remember, no-one will miss it if it doesn’t appear.

Then again, if you do decide to run a special on this clandestine venom, perhaps I can help.

I may not be a ‘top music-industry executive’ but, hey, a couple of them have made me coffee over the years.

  • Who is the most overpaid executive in the music industry?

A humble suggestion: whoever at your publication thought that question, and this survey, was genuinely a good idea.Music Business Worldwide

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