In January, Rolling Stone Country published an in-depth report about an endemic culture of sexual harassment and misconduct in the world of country radio, including incidents at events and annual conventions such as Country Radio Seminar, known as CRS.
The organizers of CRS, which is happening in Nashville this week, have not responded to Rolling Stone Country's multiple requests for comment about the allegations. However, this afternoon, CRS executive director Bill Mayne told Nashville's News Channel 5 reporter Jesse Knutson that "we do not tolerate, in any shape or form, any sexual misconduct, any improper behavior," Knutson tweeted. "Not only do we not condone it, but we also have a great degree of security...to ensure that every attendee and every participant in CRS, be they radio person, be they artist, that their safety is guaranteed at all times."
Knutson also reported that Mayne said, "I am not aware of one police report, one complaint filed with the hotel or with the CRS office." Notably, Knutston had his CRS credentials revoked earlier in the week, reportedly for trying to ask Mayne about the allegations reported by Rolling Stone Country.
In our January story, Rolling Stone Country spoke to numerous women who reported an environment in which they witnessed or were victims of sexual misconduct in social settings at CRS, calling it a "a shit-show for artists" – particularly at unofficial nighttime events held at the host hotel, where lines are often blurred and crossed. None of these women filed police reports or complaints for fear of professional repercussions; many eventually left their careers in radio behind as a result. However, Knutson also spoke with secretary of the Country Radio Broadcasters Board, Beverlee Brannigan, who said she was "not aware" of such abuses, adding that they are "not tolerated and not part of who we are or what we do – we’re an educational event."
CRS also indirectly addressed the topic today in a workshop titled "A Conversation About Harassment," led by attorney Shelley Greenwald. Billed as a session to answer "questions individuals might have as it pertains to the topic, including how to recognize harassment, how to avoid it, and what to do about it," the workshop, according to CRS' Twitter, addressed proper workplace behavior, social media and "respectful electronic communication."
"Is your behavior appropriate or not? Do you not know? Ask yourself this: Would you want this behavior on the front page of the newspaper or covered by media?" CRS tweeted about the conversation. "Managers and leaders should be held to a higher standard. They have power," they also reported Greenwald as telling the audience.
Although few leaders in the country music sphere have spoken out in the wake of Rolling Stone Country's reporting, several artists have, including Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Brothers Osborne, Natalie Hemby, Charlie Worsham and Margo Price.
"Enough 'laughing off' inappropriate comments and behaviors," Morris tweeted. "It has never been and never will be okay. We just want to do our jobs."
"MASSIVE expectance on us to be extra accommodating, accessible, sexy, and kiss ass-y. Maybe it's why you hardly ever hear me on the radio," Musgraves tweeted. "There are great PD's out there tho that still care about the music + aren't creepy but yes - what I mentioned is VERY real and disconcerting."
Still, the workshop today never directly addressed allegations made about the annual CRS event itself, and the only major label artist to visibly speak out about the #metoo movement during the convention has been Vince Gill, who performed a song called "Forever Changed" at Universal Music Group's luncheon showcase, inspired by an incident when he suffered sexual abuse in seventh grade.