Scooter Braun urged artists to speak out on gun control and “get on the right side of history” in a wide ranging speech while accepting the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award at the Music Biz 2018 conference in Nashville on Thursday (May 17).
The artist manager and music business entrepreneur was honored for his charitable efforts, including staging the One Love Manchester benefit concert in response to a terror attack at his client Ariana Grande‘s concert last year.
The issue of gun control came up in the context of the discussion of terror attacks on concerts during a keynote interview with Braun conducted by former Humanitarian Award recipient, former RIAA CEO and current political commentator Hilary Rosen. Rosen tentatively suggested talking about the issue and Braun responded, “I am not afraid to have this conversation and I like it happening here in Nashville.”
After the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting and then the Parkland school shooting, there were a lot of people in Nashville nervous about doing something, he said.
“I am a gun owner and I have no issues with anyone owning guns or driving cars,” he stated. “I think we should be qualified for both. I haven’t met one artist or friend who owns guns who doesn’t agree with me. This issue is not about taking away guns. Its about making sure that those who have guns are qualified.”
He said that if you go down to the university and talk to the kids there, those kids in 20 years they will be running the country and then finally something will happen. But the country shouldn’t have to wait until then.
“What I am asking is for the entire community to step up,” Braun said. “This town can make a difference… If you go down and ask the kids at the university what are they going to do, you would know that this is your chance to be on the right side of history.”
He challenged those that agreed with him to stand up and the entire conference seem to stand with him. During his acceptance speech, he said it is important that people who disagree continue to talk to one another. “We need to have a dialogue — and have it with respect—even with people you may think are irrational.”
Earlier, Braun discussed how the One Love Manchester benefit concert came together after the May 22, 2017, terror attack at Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena. Initially, according to Braun, Grande was devastated by the attack and she spent the next two days crying that fans had died at her show and had decided she couldn’t tour anymore.
“I realized what I was asking her to do [a benefit concert] was unfair and unreasonable,” so we decided to cancel the rest of the tour,” he recalled. “But by the time I got home I had 16 phone calls from her, with her telling me she wanted to go ahead” and do a benefit.
“I threw a lot of responsibilities on that lady’s shoulders,” he added. “She is exactly the role model we all would want her to be.”
In all of his work, Braun said his mother was his moral compass, which helped him how to make decisions. Also, “as the grandson of two holocaust survivors, I have known for my entire life and understood that this kind of evil exists,” he said. “So my first reaction after the Manchester Terror attack: I wasn’t sad, I was angry.” He said he knew that the terrorists’ goal in staging that attack was for us “to be afraid of our way of life. So I immediately wanted to let them now that we are not afraid to go to concerts and take our kids there. I wanted them to know that it is pointless for them to try and change our way of life.”
The night before the benefit — which saw performances by Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Usher and The Black Eyed Peas — another terror attack occurred south of Manchester on the London Bridge. For a brief second, Braun confided that that attack made him second guess the wisdom of holding the benefit concert. But before any follow-up thought could occur, immediately all the other performers reached out via text and e-mailed to tell him not to cancel the benefit, which turned out to be a triumphant celebration of life, even amid the sadness for those whose family members would never be coming home due to the earlier terror attacks.
As Braun reflected on his career, he said, “I thought having an artist with a No. 1 hit record, or going to the Grammys would be the high points. But the best moments in my life are when I am hanging out with friends and family.”