B.C. music exec apologizes for tweet criticizing diversity at Juno Awards
Jonathan Simkin, who represents acts like Nickelback and Carly Rae Jepsen, has apologized for comments
A prominent Canadian music executive has backtracked on a tweet criticizing the Juno Awards for prioritizing diversity and inclusion in determining performers at the award ceremony.
Jonathan Simkin is a B.C. based lawyer-turned-music executive, who co-founded indie music label 604 Records with Chad Kroeger in 2002.
He is also the lawyer for Kroeger's band Nickelback, and manages other Canadian acts, including Carly Rae Jepsen.
On July 10, he tweeted: "Just signed a new band. 2 guys, 2 gals. One is Indian, One is Korean, one is black and one is physically impaired. I call them "The Inclusive 4". Their music sucks balls – just horrible – but I figure they are a shoo-in to get on the @TheJunoAwards broadcast next year."
The tweet, which is no longer visible because his Twitter account is no longer public, generated backlash online.
In a phone interview with CBC News on Wednesday night, Simkin said he deactivated the account when he saw the reaction was snowballing.
"It was a stupid tweet, it was badly worded. I was trying to make a point and I worded it horribly," he said. "I was trying to use dark humour and it failed."
Simkin said he regretted the choice of words, but that he stands by the message he was trying to get across.
"We live in a world where there's increased pressure to be politically correct. Inclusivity is important, but other factors — talent and merit — are also important. It scares me that we sometimes make decisions solely on [the] basis [of inclusion]."
In a statement released on Thursday, Simkin apologized for the tweet.
"Upon reflection, I can see that the comments were horribly insensitive, and I understand why some people have been hurt by those words. To those people, I apologize. It was not my intent to cause hurt, or to cause people who feel disenfranchised to feel even more disenfranchised," he wrote.
The Juno Awards and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences did not immediately respond to CBC's request for comment.
As an active member of the music industry in Canada - it’s the specific choice of words like the ones you’ve chosen that passively aggressively alienate minority’s. And I suppose, will continue to do so.—@evanredsky
Evan Redsky, a Toronto-based Ojibwe singer-songwriter, who previously played in the Juno-nominated band the Single Mothers, said he engaged with Simkin on Twitter before his account was temporarily deactivated.
"It's more hurtful than anything else. It just reiterates how it's been all along, and the kind of passiveness that a lot of higher-ups have for certain musical communities," he said.
"At the previous label I was signed to, I was one of three minorities, and probably the only Indigenous person on the label out of like 30 bands."
But Redsky said he remains optimistic and believes executives like Simkin, who have long benefited from the Canadian music grant and award systems, are falling behind the times.
"It's wilful ignorance. You're not watching what's going on with the Canadian music industry in general. And it's time for people to start paying attention."
- A previous version of this story included a tweet from an artist represented by Simkin. Their tweet was, in fact, in reference to an issue unrelated to Simkin's comments.Jul 19, 2018 4:21 PM PT