The Orange County label and record store Burger Records has been accused of fostering a culture of predatory sexual practices, many targeting underage girls. These accusations have been leveled against its founders, Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard, and many artists associated with the label, its popular festival Burgerama, and the California garage-rock scene as a whole.
Over the weekend, an Instagram account called @lured_by_burger_records was set up to document numerous cases against artists affiliated with Burger Records. Artists implicated on the account include the Growlers, the Buttertones, the Black Lips, SWMRS, Love Cop, Part Time, Gap Dream, Audacity, and Cosmonauts among others, and they face a range of accusations that include rape, sexual assault, abuse, harassment, grooming, and soliciting nude photographs from minors. (So far, the Growlers have publicly responded with a statement in which they ask for “patience” while investigating the claims against multiple members; Cosmonauts said they are looking into the allegations.)
In a statement on Monday night, Burger Records announced “major structural changes” due to them “perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity” that include Rickard immediately stepping down from his post as label president and Bohrman moving into “a transitional role with the label” as Jessa Zapor-Gray becomes head of the label.
The company also says that it is changing its name to BRGR RECS and starting an all-woman imprint called BRGRRRL, that it is instituting a standard artist agreement, that it will evaluate the existing label catalog and “discontinuing the distribution of artists according to our zero-tolerance policy,” and a whole list of other changes meant to address “the culture that allowed such harm to occur.”
“All my friends who went to Burger shows, even online friends who lived across the country, experienced predatory behavior on behalf of those affiliated with Burger Records,” reads one of the @lured_by_burger_records account’s earliest posts, continuing:
Burger Records is responsible for curating a culture built on pedophilic tendencies and teenage fetishization, allowing predators access to the thousands of teenagers paying $$$ to go to their nearly-daily shows being held. Men of Burger Records lured teens in vans, the back room of Burger Records, and a storage unit someone was living in within the Burger Records lot. These people will be held accountable, and there will be silence no longer.
Many of these accusations are anonymous, and laid out in a series of highlighted Instagram stories that demonstrate a pattern of underage teenagers being preyed on by older men. Lydia Night, the leader of the Los Angeles-based band the Regrettes, posted an accusation against SWMRS’ Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day’s Billie Joe) accusing him of sexual misconduct after seeing his band post a statement in solidarity with the Burger Records victims.
“I was in a relationship with Joey that started when I was 16 and ended right before my 18th birthday,” she wrote. “For so long I viewed it just as being toxic and not something valid enough to share but now I know that what I actually experienced was emotional abuse and sexual coercion by someone in a position of power over me.”
Clementine Creevy, the leader of Cherry Glazerr, posted a statement last week sharing her story about Sean Redman, the bassist of the Buttertones. “[He] was 20 and I was 14 when he began a sexual relationship with me which is statutory rape,” she wrote. “Sean treated me badly. He was emotionally volatile and selfish.”
On Saturday, after accusations against several of their artists started to emerge, Burger Records posted an initial statement to their Instagram page about a “long-standing zero-tolerance policy” for behavior from “Burger artists engaging in the grooming of underage girls for sex, relationships built on power imbalance, and the solicitation of pornography from minors.” The comments on that Instagram — which Burger Records turned off for a while before re-activating on Sunday night — contain even more stories of sexual predation and abuse at Burger-affiliated shows. Below are just some of what has come out over the last few days. More can be found here.
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From my statement as @jointholder — I was going to Burger Records shows starting at age 14. Full statement on my page. All my friends who went to Burger shows, even online friends who lived across the country, experienced predatory behavior on behalf of those affiliated with Burger Records. With that being said, Burger Records is responsible for curating a culture built on pedophilic tendencies and teenage fetishization, allowing predators access to the thousands of teenagers paying $$$ to go to their nearly-daily shows being held. Men of Burger Records lured teens in vans, the back room of Burger Records, and a storage unit someone was living in within the Burger Records lot. These people will be held accountable, and there will be silence no longer 🌟☄️
The full Burger statement:
Dear Burger Community,
We understand that we will never be able to comprehend the trauma that women have experienced while trying to find a place in the music scene. We are profoundly saddened and sickened by the pain suffered at the hands of a toxic male music culture that does not value women as equals.
We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene, the latter of which we take part. We are also deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity.
We are sorry that we did not actively monitor this behavior well enough to make the Burger music scene safer for you. You should never feel you have to sacrifice your personal space to be able to enjoy music, for your career or in pursuit of your art; you shouldn’t feel you have to choose between music and your comfort.
But words can only go so far in repairing any damage that has been created. It is the ability to put past behaviors under a microscope, and to fully listen to those who have suffered as a result of such behaviors, in order to be able to truly make meaningful changes so that not only do those behaviors no longer occur, but real positive change can be made to meet the moment.
It is with this in mind that we have decided to make major structural changes to the label and create and implement active policy measures to address the culture that allowed such harm to occur.
To begin, Burger Records co-founder Sean Bohrman will move into a transitional role with the label. Label co-founder Lee Rickard will immediately step down from his role as label president, and fully divest all interest in the label. Jessa Zapor-Gray will assume the role of interim label president. Jessa comes to Burger with extensive experience in the music industry and an extensive familiarity with the Burger catalog. We look forward to having her take the helm at the label.
In the spirit of change, here are the other actions we will be taking moving forward:
* To create a clear delineation between the old and the new Burger Records, the label will become BRGR RECS. Furthermore, we will be adding an all-woman imprint to the label, BRGRRRL, which will serve to give many more women artists a platform and support for growth as musicians.
* BRGR will be instating a standard artist agreement, something we did not previously do. This will include clear statements regarding unlawful and predatory behavior. By doing so, we will create a clear path to restorative justice against predators in the future.
* BRGR will also begin working with experts in trauma and sexual assault awareness and consent education.
* BRGR will set up a counseling fund to help pay for counseling services for those who suffered such trauma while engaging in the Burger scene.
* The Burger Records shop, which is not a part of Burger Records, will no longer have any affiliation to the label and will change its name. The shop will also no longer host in-store performances of any kind.
* BRGR sanctioned events will have a dedicated safe space for women to enjoy music without fear of invasion to their personal space.
* An educated member of the community will be present at all BRGR sanctioned shows over 1000 attendees.
* BRGR sanctioned all-ages shows will have a dedicated safe space for those under the age of 18.
* BRGR will provide ongoing education and training to artists, management, and venues we work with on sensitivity and the effects of trauma.
* BRGR will evaluate the whole of the existing label catalog and artists therein, discontinuing the distribution of artists according to our zero-tolerance policy.
* BRGR will work with women in the industry, artists, and fans to create further actionable goals for educating our bands and the music community on recognizing abusive or predatory behavior.
We thank you for coming forward and for your courage to speak up, and want you to know that we are committed to doing real work to improve the culture of BRGR RECS and the indie music scene for all of us.
We want to be leaders in the industry and a model for other labels to effect real, lasting change.