A person going by the name Keith Messner and using the Warner Music Group logo on the now-defunct Twitter account @Nashville_AR — with the job description “A&R guy, producer, mixer — country/rock/pop” in his bio — has been reaching out to young female artists on the social-media platform. But a call to the label reveals no man by that name in the WMG database.
Messner — who shares the same name as a man sentenced to prison in 2000 for molesting two teen girls after claiming to have music-industry connections — messaged 12-year-old Taylor Gayle last week, tweeting, “U blow Taylor Swift out of the water. U will go far” and “Warner Music Nashville will be out in full force to see u perform at the Commodore. We are in your corner.” (Gayle has a gig Thursday at Nashville’s Commodore Grille.)
Billboard contacted Warner Music Nashville’s human resources department, which confirmed no person by the name of Keith Messner was in its employee database.
Messner’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but a Twitter spokesperson will not confirm to Billboard whether the user pulled the account or if a complaint led to its deactivation. “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons,” the spokesperson said.
Billboard reached Gayle’s mom, Brandy Barnes, via Facebook, and she said there were red flags along the way.
“I became suspicious when I realized his email was not a Warner email address, but I honestly did not look at that right away and I should have,” Barnes wrote in a Facebook Message to Billboard. “He was asking in the email what her future plans were for her career, if she ever went to Nashville and he would love to see her perform at venues around Nashville. The email goes to me, so I responded and told him we moved to Nashville and she has already started performing around town and would be singing Thursday night at the Commodore. I then had a gut feeling I should check into him.”
Barnes Googled his name and discovered a March 2000 newspaper article from Pennsylvania’s The Morning Call that reads: “An Allentown man who promised two teen girls he would launch their singing careers and then molested them will serve a total of nine to 20 years in state prison after being sentenced in two counties. This week in Lehigh County Court, Keith Messner, 38, of 305 S. 18th St., was ordered to serve five to 10 years in prison, consecutive to a four- to 10-year sentence Messner received in Lackawanna County.”
“I then looked closer at the Twitter profile and realized his account was private and it was pretty new,” Barnes continued. “I reached out to Rick Barker and Bernard Porter to see if they knew him (my main music industry mentors) and they both went looking into his background and Rick called Warner. By noon the next day we had found out he did not work at Warner. It started looking really bad. I then blocked him on Twitter and have no further contact with him. Taylor is performing at the Commodore Thursday night; we will be watching her very closely.”
Barker, of development service Music Industry Blueprint, made a video about the correspondence and posted it Monday on Facebook; it has since been viewed almost 80,000 times and shared more than 900 times.
This guy is a Music Industry Fraud and a potential threat and you need to be aware! People like this need to be stopped. #scumbag Taylor Gayle Please Share!
Posted by Rick Barker on Monday, August 8, 2016
“This guy is a Music Industry Fraud and a potential threat and you need to be aware! People like this need to be stopped,” he wrote in the status above the video.
“I know the headline was a little harsh but I’ll let you judge that for yourself,” he says to the camera as he begins the video.
Barker says he received the information from his client (Barnes) and did some follow-up himself. “I reached out to some folks at Warner Music this morning and find out that there’s not that much legit about this person. … The reason I want to warn you is that he seems to be reaching out to young female artists. In fact, he’s reached out to a few of my Blueprint members and he follows quite a few of them on Twitter.”
In the video, he zooms in on a message Messner sent to Gayle: “It was great to meet you on Twitter. I was curious as to what your future career plans are? Do you have a manager to guide you with your career? Will you be coming to Nashville anytime soon? I’d love to see you play many of the venues here and get more exposure. You are an amazing talent. You’ve got a friend in Nashville.” Under his name, Messner wrote Warner Music Group.
Barker also zooms in on The Morning Call article, careful to say it “may or may not be the same guy.” He pointed out some of the tweets to the 12-year-old girl, as well as to one of Barker’s other clients, Haley Rose, in which Messner said, “Love your sound.”
Barker contacted Warner’s A&R, whose legal team told him they did not know this person and would see about getting the Twitter account removed. He concludes the video by telling parents to research and investigate, just like Gayle’s mother did.
“I mean, looking at the guy’s Twitter profile, he’s holding a gold 45 record. That’s the last he’s got to show for the work he’s done? He’s probably been around for a while. But just be very, very, very careful.” He also offers to do the research for you if you are unable to get the contact at a record company to check credentials.
Barker tells Billboard he took screenshots of Messner’s Twitter account before and after the man removed the Warner Music Group name and logo. “I kept the screen documentation of his actions. Was interesting to watch in real time.” He notes that the shares and views of the video “helped get the word out and hopefully freak this guy out.”