Global Politics

The price of singing for Gaddafi

By Alex Gallafent

Player utilities

Usher scored a huge hit with his song "Confessions Part II." And many in the music industry have been calling for confessions of the sort from Usher and other artists including Beyoncé and Mariah Carey.

In recent years they all reportedly performed private shows for the family of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and were paid large sums of money for their services.

A State Department document released by Wikileaks put the price of a concert allegedly featuring Usher and Beyoncé at $1 million. Given the events of recent days, taking Gaddafi money doesn't look too good.

Artists like Mariah Carey do perform private gigs in faraway places. And there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that says Jason Maloni.

"But no smart artist would allow themselves or allow their brand to be misrepresented without knowing where that money comes from," Maloni says.

Maloni is with Levick Strategic Communications. He specializes in crisis public relations for entertainment and sports clients. Maloni says running away from the story isn't possible anymore.

"Gone are the days when the act is going to disappear to Japan and do a giant whiskey advertising campaign and nobody ever hear about it," he said.

Artists are accountable for their decisions, Maloni says, just as other businesses are. And in today's world, nothing stays hidden for long.

"They always find the blue dress, as they say," Maloni says.

Now, Libya was formally open for business – the country had kind-of been rehabilitated into the international community. But still.

"Any artist who has played Libya or any other dictatorship in recent months would be wise to rip the band-aid off and – as we say in crisis communications circles—run to the light," Maloni says. "Announce what happened and donate any proceeds that came from that venue to a worthwhile cause."

Monday, that's exactly what another artist announced she would do.

The Canadian pop star Nelly Furtado posted a message on Twitter admitting that shed accepted a million dollars from the Gaddafi family. She played a 45 minute set for them at a hotel in Italy; she'll now donate the money she earned.

No word yet from Usher, Beyoncé or Mariah Carey. But Nelly Furtado, at least, seems ready to let her Libyan earnings go.

Comments