When Toronto-born singer Lindi Ortega appeared on the CBC Radio show Q with Jian Ghomeshi in 2012, it was the second time in a year — a great boost to a young musician.
As Ghomeshi gushed about her performances for his Canadian and American audience, entertainment lawyer Chris Taylor, who manages Ortega, watched from the other side of a glass panel in the CBC control room where Q is produced. Jack Ross, a powerful Toronto agent who also represents Ortega, was not there that day but, like Taylor, he was the beneficiary of Ghomeshi’s skilful promotion of a client.
What Ghomeshi did not share with his listeners was the fact that he, too, was a client of agent Jack Ross and lawyer Chris Taylor.
This pattern was replicated many times over the seven years Ghomeshi hosted Q, according to a Toronto Star review of Q shows and the client lists of Taylor and Ross.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the national broadcaster knew that Ghomeshi was represented by Taylor and Ross, and that those men’s clients often appeared on Q. Thompson said it was not a problem because “Q is an entertainment program and it’s not bound by the same standards and practices we have in place with our news and current affairs programs.”
“Some people (at CBC) were aware of Jian’s representation by Chris Taylor and Jack Ross. It’s a small industry and both Chris and Jack represent a lot of Canadian talent, some of whom have been featured on Q along with many other artists who weren’t represented by either Taylor or Ross,” the CBC’s Thompson told the Star.
Thompson did not say whether he thought Ghomeshi should have disclosed this connection to his listeners and to viewers of Q’s television show, where many of the acts performed, some in front of a live audience.
Neither Taylor nor Ross has responded to requests from the Star to comment for this story. Ortega said she was aware Ghomeshi was represented by the same people who represent her.
Last week Ghomeshi, who had earlier been fired by the CBC, was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance — choking.
In a message to the Star, Ortega said: “I stand by the women who came forward,” and that she is “horrified” by the allegations of abuse against Ghomeshi.
She said Ghomeshi “never tried anything with me, perhaps because I was represented by the same folks he was represented by.”
The apparent favouring of some musicians over others has rankled artists who have found themselves shut out of Q, a national radio program in Canada that is syndicated in the U.S.
“We have just given up trying to get on Q,” said the manager of one band, who asked not to be identified because he feared speaking out would negatively affect the act he manages. “To us it is a clear conflict of interest.”
Ross, an agent who discovered Ghomeshi in the 1980s and helped him become a successful musician with Moxy Früvous, cut ties with the radio host when the scandal involving abuse allegations widened in November. It is unclear if Taylor is still Ghomeshi’s lawyer. Taylor is a partner at the entertainment law firm he founded, Taylor Klein Oballa LLP. Taylor is also the founder of Last Gang Records and Last Gang Management. Clients of the Last Gang firms, including the New Pornographers, have also appeared on Q with Ghomeshi.
In the music business, exposure through a culture and arts show like Q is gold, music industry veterans say.
Ghomeshi has continued to be represented by Taylor and Ross throughout his hosting career, according to information on Taylor’s and Ross’s websites and in press releases and other documents. Sources say both men have helped Ghomeshi work out contract deals with CBC. Agent Ross was also involved in booking Ghomeshi for lucrative speaking engagements.
During the seven years Q has been on the air, many of Ghomeshi’s fellow clients have been his guests. The Star could not find any examples of Ghomeshi disclosing this to his audience.
Among the artists promoted by Q, who, like Ghomeshi, are represented by Taylor and Ross: Drake, Buck 65 and Lights. (Until recently Ghomeshi also managed Lights.) Looking just at Ross’s client list (published on his website), the Star noted a number of his clients appeared on Q to promote their music, including Arkells, Billy Bragg, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and Jets Overhead. Looking at the musical acts identified on Taylor’s firm’s website (there is not a full client roster), the Star noted clients who had performed on Q included Broken Social Scene and Bedouin Soundclash frontman Jay Malinowski when he debuted a solo album.
Country singer Ortega first appeared on Q in September 2011 to promote her debut album Little Red Boots. She was back almost exactly one year later, playing songs on the Friday Live portion of a September 2012 program to promote her new album, Cigarettes & Truckstops. After she played her first song, Ghomeshi said: “Wow! You just sold 10,000 records with that performance just now.”
Later, as he wrapped up the interview, Ghomeshi pointed out to his listeners that Ortega had a solid team supporting her. “You got a great team with you . . . you got Chris Taylor sitting on the other side of the glass there.”
Ghomeshi concluded: “I think this is the fastest we have had someone back on Q.”
In his response to the Star, CBC spokesman Thompson said: “The team on Q have all kinds of contacts in the industry that allow the program to book great bands, filmmakers, actors and other talented artists the audience want to hear from and know more about.”