The sexual-misconduct allegations against Ryan Adams appeared in the New York Times yesterday (Feb. 13) as the singer-songwriter is preparing a new album, due in April, and a European tour around the same time. But so far, promoters haven’t canceled his dates in England and Scotland, and his record label, Capitol, and song publisher, Universal, have not announced any changes in his status.
The fact that his upcoming dates are in Europe, which draws lower media attention than the U.S., might work in his favor, says Howard Bragman, a veteran Hollywood crisis manager who heads the public-relations firm Fifteen Minutes.
“In the U.S., you’d probably see him shutting down tours,” Bragman adds. “We’ve seen time and time again, your fans will give you the benefit of the doubt.”
Adams, who has denied several women’s claims that he “pursued them sexually and in some cases retaliated when they spurned him,” as the Times reported in its story, has worked with an entirely new music-business team in recent months. He fired agent Frank Riley, manager John Silva and attorney Josh Grier last summer; his publicist, Steve Martin of Nasty Little Man, quit last fall.
Members of his new team, including manager Ty Stiklorius, did not respond to requests for comment. The upcoming shows seem to be selling briskly — only a handful of seats are available for his first night at London’s Royal Albert Hall, for example, although several dozen are still for sale on the second night.
“It’s certainly complicated,” says a source in the concert business. “When there’s a controversy around an artist, it’s still up to the fans to give them a vote from their pocketbook. The fans give you their opinion by showing up or not.”
Compared to the movie business, which quickly shunned accused sexual predators such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, the music business has dealt with fewer accusations in the #MeToo era and responded to them more slowly. The first sexual-misconduct allegations against singer R. Kelly came to light in 2000, yet his longtime publisher, Universal, didn’t drop him until last spring; his label, RCA, did the same this January, after a Lifetime docuseries led to more widespread outrage. (Kelly’s streams actually went up after the series aired.)
“On the one hand, you inevitably lose some fans when these kinds of allegations come out,” says a source in the record business. “On the other hand, there seems to be some short-term curiosity about an artist who winds up in the news for any reason.”
Adams, who owns the music-publishing rights to all of his songs, plans to release his upcoming album, Big Colors, through Universal-owned Capitol Records’ Blue Note division in late April. He has also teased plans to release two more records this year. His label and publisher did not respond to requests for comment, but even if something were to happen to his record deal, he could self-release the album via iTunes and streaming services. (Last month, Spotify announced a policy allowing listeners to mute certain artists when they pop up in playlists; this week, Tidal did the same.)
“The record label might decide it’s not a good time to release it — or they might say, ‘Let’s go ahead, and if sells, well, there’s no problem,'” says Juda Engelmayer, president of public-relations firm HeraldPR, which specializes in crisis communications. “If you release, and it doesn’t sell, then he’s never making another album again — well, not never, but it’s going to be hard.”