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Female Musicians Stand in Solidarity Against ‘Scumbag’ Music PR Heathcliff Berru

Heathcliff Berru, one of the music industry's most prominent PRs, has just been accused of sexual harassment and assault by several female PRs and musicians.
Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. Photo by Claire Thomson via Flickr user TheArches

A prominent music industry figure and publicist has just stepped down from his own company over allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Life or Death PR & Management founder Heathcliff Berru has been called a "scumbag" and a "monster" by women in the industry, and drawn comparisons on Twitter to alleged serial rapist Bill Cosby.

On Tuesday, Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman accused Berru of sexual harassment in a series of tweets, writing that he "RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar a couple years ago." She added, "I've been told many women have had scary stories about him for years but are scared to speak up. And dudes overlook it and keep hiring him.


"Tired of sketchy ass dudes and sexual predators getting a pass from their 'bros'," Coffman continued. "Grow a spine and hold your friends accountable."

Read more: Swimming with Sharks: Sexual Predators in the Music Industry

Multiple women have since come forward with stories of their own encounters with Berru, including Bethany Cosentino of the LA-based band Best Coast, Yasmine Kittles of electronic duo TEARIST, singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, and Danger Village publicist Beth Martinez.

— Best Coast (@BestCoast)January 19, 2016

Thank you — TEARIST (@_TEARIST_)January 19, 2016



.— Beth Martinez. Hero. (@dangervillage)January 19, 2016

"I was too ashamed to tell anyone for years, and took me years to realize how fucked up that was," Martinez added on Twitter. "My stories aren't even comparatively bad to what has happened to other girls by this person."

LA-based former drummer Roxy Lange also spoke to Brooklyn Magazine, alleging that she was assaulted by Berru in 2007, when she was 21 years old.

He kept trying to force me to give him a blowjob in a cab and wouldn't stop pushing my head into his lap forcefully, with his pants unzipped and penis out in the open. After I got out of the cab, he followed me up 3 flights of stairs and forced his way into my apartment, attempting to force himself on me but he was luckily too drunk and coked up to get hard so he gave up. He then pissed himself and fell asleep in my bed while I laid there, a very drunk 21 year-old experiencing NY nightlife for the first time and this happened to me.


Those who have worked in the industry say that stories about Berru's apaprent behavior have circulated for years, though—as Coffman points out—this did not stop his company from representing dozens of notable music acts, including D'Angelo, Earl Sweatshirt, Odd Future, and Killer Mike. (As of writing, former clients Kelela, Wavves, DIIV, and Speedy Ortiz have stated on Twitter that they have severed ties with Life or Death PR.)

Graeme Flegenheimer, who founded and runs the New York performing arts venue The Church on York, worked as a publicist for Life or Death PR before getting fired from the company in 2012. He said that the allegations of Berru's extreme behavior did not surprise him. "There was a totally a hedonistic vibe, [buying] writers/clients/people drinks and drugs," he said in an email to Broadly. "[Berru] was always getting fucked up with people… It was kinda the vibe he instilled…. Like [a] constant party train."

[Sexual harassment] is probably the most common behavior I've ever experienced in the music industry.

He said that his first indication that Berru's partying was not as innocent as it seemed was when Berru "made a move on [his] friend at [the club night] Wierd Night in Brooklyn, trying to make out with her in a bathroom. That was the first time I saw fucked up behavior. I know we had a disagreement about the aforementioned situation and I was being scolded at the time for partying too much. Yet it was deemed OK for [Berru] to party and pull stupid shit like at Wierd." Shortly after his disagreement with Berru, he says he was let go from Life or Death PR.


"The music business is essentially formed on reputation," explained Rachel Grace Almeida, a music journalist who wrote about her own experience of sexual harassment in the industry for Broadly. "Reputation leads to constant praise; constant praise leads to abuse of power. The music industry is pretty much built on hedonism, and sex is pleasure. Unfortunately this hasn't been an issue that's been seriously tackled in the music industry by men, so things go unspoken and these men think it's okay to do what they're doing. Also, trash attracts trash."

Read more: For Women in Tech, Sexual Harassment Is Part of the Job

Less than 24 hours after Coffman's initial tweets, Berru resigned from his position at Life or Death PR. His company released a statement, which said in part: "Life or Death has a zero tolerance policy for the type of conduct alleged in today's on-line postings. We take these allegations very seriously."

In a statement provided to Billboard, Berru said that he had "already lost my wife, abandoned my family, and destroyed those I love as a result of my shameful, embarrassing unacceptable behavior." He also said:

There have been several reports about my alleged inappropriate behavior which deserve a response. I am deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel. If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse, of course. To be clear, while my conduct may have been inappropriate, I have never drugged anyone or engaged in that type of behavior. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the type of person who would let drugs or alcohol take command of his life and compromise how he treats people. Yet I have been this person and it's time to put a stop to all of this. Create a world with one less inappropriate man.

Berru also stated that he would be checking into rehab for his drug and alcohol problems.

But to anyone in the music industry, the allegations made against Berru are not the exception to the rule. "[Sexual harassment] is probably the most common behavior I've ever experienced in the music industry," Almeida said. "Men: Favoriting and retweeting isn't going to fix this. You need to confront inappropriate behavior you see, and you need to believe and support the women around you. You need to tell your bosses that this is happening, and you need to go public with anything you know. Don't protect someone just because they're powerful—because as you see with Heathcliff, he too can turn into nothing overnight."

Neither Life or Death PR nor Berru have returned Broadly's request for comment.