Matisyahu Parts Ways With Longtime Management
Emerging Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu may sing about his beliefs. But he seems to have experienced a recent crisis of faith -- in JDub, his management company.Emerging Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu may sing about his beliefs. But he seems to have experienced a recent crisis of faith -- in JDub, his management company.
JDub was informed by Matisyahu via a brief phone call on March 1 that its management services were no longer needed. Meanwhile, "Youth," the singer's first studio release for a major label (JDub/Or Music/Epic), debuts on The Billboard 200 this week at No. 4, selling nearly 120,000 copies. Matisyahu has also been represented by new management, in the form of former Capitol Records president Gary Gersh, since early March.
What Matisyahu has left behind is a potential legal mess. Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris are partners in running JDub, a not-for-profit record label, events and management team that strives to promote Jewish music. The pair say Matisyahu has three years remaining on a four-year management contract and that they are looking for redress.
"We in no way are out to harm Matisyahu," Bisman tells Billboard. "But we can't just sit and take this. We have a contract and a longstanding relationship. If he didn't have a gold record and two singles already on MTV, we might understand if he wanted to look for new management."
Matisyahu's lawyer, Valerie Marcus, and Gersh declined to comment, but sources close to the rapper say there are two sides to the story. One source says the rapper had lost "thousands" from bad deals. Harris and Bisman claim to have no idea what such claims might be about, and say they have played a substantial role in developing Matisyahu's unlikely career as a pop star.
Matisyahu -- then Matthew Miller -- met Bisman about five years ago. Bisman says that he helped to convince the singer that pursuing a reggae career was not at odds with his faith.
Bisman cites several other examples of delivering as a manager: convincing Matisyahu to play clubs and not synagogues; getting talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to let Matisyahu perform, and not just appear, on a 2005 TV slot that resulted in an unintended, but highly successful viral marketing campaign; and negotiating with Or Music to allow Matisyahu to make his first album a live recording. The result, "Live at Stubb's," has sold more than 500,000 copies.
Sources close to both JDub and Matisyahu say that JDub is looking for a settlement. JDub's attorney, Greg Clarick from the firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, bristled at the suggestion his client's actions justified Matisyahu's move. "Vague ideas of mismanagement and unsubstantiated allegations of loss of money doesn't stand up for anything," Clarick says. "What's clear-cut here is that Matisyahu had a written, signed management agreement with JDub ... He's turned his back on those obligations and breached the contract with no basis, no proper notice and no possible lawful justification."