Jann Wenner’s reign at the Rock Hall of Fame lasted years and ended in twenty minutes

Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Weiner at her home in Montauk, New York on August 22, 2022.  (Dana Scruggs/The New York Times)

Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Weiner at her home in Montauk, New York on August 22, 2022. (Dana Scruggs/The New York Times)

While Jann Wenner dominated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years, she saw her presidency of the affiliated foundation as an extension of the cultural power she long wielded as co-founder and editor of Rolling Stone magazine. Was used in.

Weiner spoke publicly on behalf of the Hall, opening its induction ceremony each year and posing for photos with music stars. Behind the scenes, he demonstrated his tremendous influence over which artists joined and which did not, and clearly maintained his control over the organization.

That power came to a quick and brutal end on Saturday afternoon, when Weiner was ousted from the foundation’s board of trustees, a day after he was quoted at length in an interview with The New York Times in which he made such comments. were widely criticized. As racist and misogynistic.

On Saturday, media executive John Sykes, who succeeded Weiner as chairman in 2020, sent an email to board members calling for an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The only item on the agenda: a vote on Weiner’s expulsion.

Weiner responded with a last-minute appeal for clemency. “I understand how inflammatory these words sound, but I do not feel this way in my heart or have done this during the time I founded and operated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he wrote in an email.

But in a teleconference vote lasting only twenty minutes, the proposal was approved with only two votes against. One came from Weiner himself, and the other from Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen’s manager and former Rolling Stone critic, who played a key role in the room as longtime chairman of the nominating committee.

“Jain’s statements were indefensible and contrary to everything Salon presented,” Landau said in a statement. “It was clear that the vote to expel him from the council would be fair and appropriately overwhelming. “The purpose of my vote was to recognize everything they did to build the hall.”

This was a stunning fall for Weiner, who, through his dominance of both the Rolling Stones and the Rock Hall of Fame, had long held a doubly powerful position in the music industry, able to promote or stall artists’ careers depending on their status. Were capable. Taste or whim. These biases collided with the Hall’s new management’s efforts to respond to criticism of not adequately including women and minorities in its creed.

In an interview with The Times conducted by David Marchese, Weiner, 77, explained why in his new book, “The Masters” — a compilation of his interviews over the years with rock stars like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Springsteen. From the pages of Rolling Stone – It did not include any women or people of color. He said that neither of them were “that eloquent on an intellectual level” and that he did not consider them “rock philosophers”.

“You know, just for the sake of public relations,” he continued, “maybe I should have gone out and found a black artist and a woman to include here who didn’t hold up to the same historical standard, just to avoid it. Type of criticism for. I understand. I had the opportunity to do that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned and don’t care.”

Those comments were immediately criticized on social media. Just as quickly, worried phone calls and emails began circulating among the 31 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s board of trustees, which includes music and media executives, actors from the world of finance and stars like Pharrell Williams and LL . Cool J. (The foundation, created in 1983, selects the artists it joins and is affiliated with the museum in Cleveland).

Former Spotify executive and advisor to Prince’s estate Troy Carter told Weiner in an email addressed to board members, “Your words risk undermining the institution you helped create by promoting a narrative that Not only narrow-minded, but also ostracized.” Obtained by The Times.

Interviews with four people with direct knowledge of the board’s vote, who spoke anonymously because the panel’s deliberations are confidential, paint a picture of urgency and anger within the institution.

At the board meeting, some members expressed frustration at Weiner’s comments, who even briefly intervened, though his comments failed to convince the assembled directors, who included some of music’s most powerful figures in the major leagues. Record label, music publisher and world tour.

The meeting ended in about twenty minutes and the decision was announced with a short statement in the room. The decision to remove Weiner was effective immediately.

Hall representatives declined to provide details about the vote, except to say that the teleconference had a quorum of at least sixteen people, as required by the organization’s bylaws.

Weiner did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement released Saturday night, he said, among other things: “In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that disrespected the contributions, talent and influence of black artists and women, and I stand by everything “I apologize for that.” notes.”

When casting their votes, board members may have focused only on Weiner’s recent interview. But the extent of his influence on the Hall of Fame has long been viewed by many as a liability to the institution.

In “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine”, a highly critical 2017 biography by Joe Hagen, Wenner was quoted openly describing a kind of autocratic control over the room. “In a way, it’s the property of the Rolling Stones, because it’s a Rolling Stone creation,” Weiner said. “Some people think it is inappropriate to say this. But that’s just the way it is. This is something of mine.”

The Rock Hall of Fame has long opposed that position, arguing that its internal processes, though opaque, are duly democratic and fair. However, many artists and their business representatives have scoffed at it (at least until they have received the entry).

Even as complaints about the Hall’s lack of diversity began to grow louder over the past decade — according to a detailed study in 2019, only 7.7 percent of Hall inductees at that time were women — Weiner dismissed the criticism. .

In an interview with The Times that year, when he announced his resignation from the presidency, he said: “I don’t think it’s a real problem.” And he added: “People are given entry for their achievements. “Evaluation of musical achievements should be race and gender-neutral.”

Under Sykes’ direction, the salon has made public efforts to diversify its management ranks and include more women and minority artists.

c.2023 New York Times Company

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