D’Angelo, Kelela, And Others Cut Ties With Publicity Company After Founder Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Update: After women in the music industry shared stories of harassment, Life Or Death PR founder Heathcliff Berru resigned from the company on Tuesday night.

January 19, 2016

In a series of tweets on Monday night, Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman accused music publicist Heathcliff Berru of sexual harassment.

On Tuesday night, Life Or Death announced in a statement that Berru will be stepping down as the head of Life Or Death PR, the firm he founded in 2008. In a statement, the full version of which can be read below, Life Or Death said, "We are grateful to Heathcliff Berru for all the work he's done to date and his creative vision at the company. We appreciate and support his decision to step down as CEO of Life Or Death."


Life Or Death currently represents artists including D'Angelo, DIIV, Killer Mike, and Tyler, the Creator; it formerly represented Frank Ocean. One of Life Or Death's client's, the band Wavves, seems to have parted ways with the company. (The FADER has worked with Life Or Death publicists and artists they represent on many stories over the past few years.)

Throughout Tuesday morning, several other women involved in the music industry have recounted stories of Berru's misconduct, which include allegations that he has drugged several women:



In a statement sent via email, the founder of Danger Village Music Publicity Beth Martinez elaborated on her tweet:

"None of this was meant to bring Cliff Berru down. I replied to Amber's tweet because I had had a similar experience and I wanted to share my story. I think it's very important for young women in the music industry—and all industries—to know that unwanted sexual attention is not their fault and not appropriate. You do not have to give in to anything you don't want to do in fear of not moving higher on the ladder. This is not just the work of one sexual predator—this is the culture in our society of how women are treated that needs to change. I'm glad this story is getting out in the open now, because women have been silent for years about the harassment we face on a daily basis. Every woman I know has multiple stories of harassment and/or sexual assault. The stories you are hearing about Cliff today are not the exception. This is what we deal with as women every day when we leave our houses. What's unusual here, maybe, is that so many people have faced harassment at the hands of one man. But we'll start hearing more stories soon from women who face these same situations all the time. And I know that people are listening now, finally. I've been dealing with these issues with myself and my friends since I started college in 2000. This is not new. What is new is that we are finally being heard.

I tried to tell my story about getting roofied on Twitter in 2012, and I lost hundreds of followers. I was not heard then, so I wrote a book about it in order to have a way to share my experiences with other women. I never spoke publicly about it again until now, and finally things are changing. People are listening. This is good."

The FADER also contacted Amber Coffman and Judy Silverman for comment. A rep for Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino declined to comment for this story.

The FADER has reached out to Life or Death for comment.

Update: (1/19 5:12 p.m): Berru has stepped down from the company.

In a statement, Life Or Death president Nick Dierl said:

"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.

The men and women who make up this company do not, and will not, condone or tolerate any conduct described in the on-line postings. Life Or Death is 3 men and 3 women who are committed to promoting art and serving the clients that we're so privileged to represent. We are taking measures to ensure that the alleged behavior did not, and will not, make its way into company operations or impact our commitment to promoting art and assisting our clients.

We are grateful to Heathcliff Berru for all the work he's done to date and his creative vision at the company. We appreciate and support his decision to step down as CEO of Life Or Death."

Update: (1/19 5:17 p.m): DIIV has also apparently cut ties with the company.

Update: (1/19 6:19 p.m.): According to a tweet from guitarist Sadie Dupuis, Speedy Ortiz will no longer be working with Life Or Death.

Update (1/20 5:45 a.m.): Kelela has tweeted that she also will no longer be working with Life Or Death.
Berru has also issued a statement responding to the allegations made against him.

Read the whole thing below, via Billboard:

"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.

"I have been fighting a losing battle against drugs and alcohol for many years and will be checking into a rehabilitation facility in the hope that I can improve my chances of winning that fight. A year ago, I was confronted by a peer and began to try to clean up and make things right with therapy and with an eye towards quitting the addiction. The shame and sadness feels as strong now as it did then and I am making an immediate change.

"In no way do these allegations reflect on Life or Death PR, its staff, or anyone associated with the company. These are my issues, not theirs. I could not be more proud of the company and what it stands for. That being said I have stepped down as the CEO and relinquishing all responsibility to the current president, Nick Dierl. The company shouldn't have to deal with this distraction and I want Nick and the rest of the team to continue to do their good work while I take care of myself."

Update (1/20 9:58 a.m.): Beach Fossils and Mixpak have joined the list of artists who ended business with Life Or Death.

Former Life Or Death client Sky Ferreira also tweeted "About time someone said something..." last night, which many have attributed to being about the accusations against Berru.

Coffman spoke to New York Magazine and gave a more detailed account of what happened between her and Berru.
Update (1/20 11:21 a.m.): Killer Mike has now tweeted that he will stay with Life Or Death, under his publicist Duncan Will.

Update (1/20 1:32 p.m.): A rep for D'Angelo told The FADER over email "Life or Death does not represent D’Angelo at this time."
Update (1/20 3:27 p.m.): A rep for Wet emailed the following statement to The FADER:

"We are appalled by what has come to light and will no longer be working with Life or Death but hope to find a way to continue working with our current publicist, Duncan."

D’Angelo, Kelela, And Others Cut Ties With Publicity Company After Founder Accused Of Sexual Misconduct