There’s been a bit of controversy of late regarding Matisyahu’s decision to drop his JDub management team and instead go with former Capitol Records president Gary Gersh, the man said to have discovered Nirvana and who currently represents big name bands such as Beck, The Foo Fighters and The Beastie Boys.
The aggrieved parties, namely Aaron Bisman, 25 and Jacob Harris 26, run the non-profit Jewish record label JDub Records. True to their label’s mission, they were early supporters of Matisyahu’s music and had a management contract with him that was good for another three years. Matisyahu however, decided to break this contract and go elsewhere out of concern that Bisman and Harris did not have sufficient experience to guide his carreer given the unprecedented success of his albums Live at Stubbs (currently #36 on the Billboard Charts, certified Gold with over 500,000 CDs sold) and Youth (debuted at #4).
Former followers of Shabbatai do penance for their support of him.
So did I say there was a bit of controversy? To say the least! The reaction to Matisyahu’s decision to change management teams reminds me of the response by the followers of false messiah Sabbatai Zevi upon hearing that he had converted to Islam. He’s been accused of violating Halakhah, selling out his friends and behaving in a way that does not befit a man of principle. Others have defended his decision, saying he had no choice, that it would be career suicide to have inexperienced management at such a pivotal time.
What a dilemma! Was Matisyahu’s move a cynical and hypocritical act of betrayal against his friends and early supporters or was it merely an unpleasant but necessary business decision? Well, when faced with similar dilemmas I try to find wisdom in reliable sources. The Simpsons have been entertaining me for years – there is thus no reason why they could not offer guidance even in this complicated matter.
After some research I found the answer in episode 20, season 3 of the Simpsons. Titled Colonel Homer, this episode has an extra layer of yichus (distinguished lineage) in that it is the only one ever written by Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons.
You can read a synopsis of the plot here, but briefly Homer meets Lurleen Lumpkin, a sweet voiced waitress at a local C&W Honky Tonk. She sings a song she just made up, and in short course Homer, moved by the song, gets it recorded and played on a local radio station. The song becomes an instant sensation and Homer becomes Lurleen’s manager. Lurleen is very thankful but Marge, Homer’s wife fears for her marriage. Homer then secures Lurleen a TV gig during which he is approached by another more experienced manager who wishes to purchase Lurleen’s contract. Homer refuses and then later in the dressing room, Lurleen makes her romantic desires towards Homer known. Homer remembers the sanctity of his marriage to Marge and tells Lurleen that his goal was to share her voice with other people, and he’s done it. He then leaves and sells the contract to the other manager for $50.
Clearly Homer realized that continuing his association with Lurleen would endanger his marriage. But throughout the episode, Homer was also inspired by a selfless desire to share Lurleen’s music with the rest of the world. Homer’s decision to sell the contract was thus also motivated by his desire to do the right thing for Lurleen and her career – Homer knew that being represented by “Rebel Yell Records, a division of the Tokasagi Corporation” would mean that Lurleen’s management would be undertaken by competent professionals. Consequently, I believe that Homer would enjoin Bisman and Harris to let their friend Matisyahu go and do the right thing for his music and for his career. Homer had no more musical aspirations but JDub’s association with Matisyahu will no doubt benefit JDub’s other acts.
So it’s all good. Homer would have approved of Matisyahu’s move and that’s good enough for me. As for everyone else, let’s enjoy a cool refreshing Duff beer and move on …