Following allegations of sexual assault and rape against multiple women, electronic music producer and DJ Billy Kenny was recently removed from Shambhala Music Festival's virtual edition, "Shambhala At Home."
The July 13th announcement of Kenny's expulsion prompted an official response from the DJ, who took to social media to address the accusations before eradicating his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts days later. Before the deletion of Kenny's statement, Your EDM published an excerpt. "For clarity, it is alleged that on June 23rd, 2017 at a show in Edmonton, I played a trick on a woman who was on stage during my performance, where I pretended to drop my USB stick and then grabbed her behind inappropriately," Kenny wrote. "My behaviour during that time period three years ago was unacceptable and inconsistent with who I am today. I am firmly against any type of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or violence and I can’t imagine acting in the ways I have been accused of."
On July 14th, Veronica Weibsstück, who operates the Twitter account @veronicaweibs, posted a series of screenshots containing a graphic accusation of rape from a musician named BB Mars. The incident allegedly took place in Kenny's hotel room following an after-party in Alberta. You can read Mars' claims below.
After seeing Shambhala's July 13th response to the allegations, which condemned Kenny, a woman named Sorinda Demeter took to Facebook to share her dismay with the festival. "Shambhala Music Festival is silencing me from speaking out," Demeter wrote. "They have blocked me from being allowed to comment on their posts to tell my story and to let the world know that they allowed Billy Kenny to continue to play at the festival for three years after me and another woman reported him for several acts of harm against women."
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Demeter further expounded her claims to EDM.com, writing that she reported Kenny to Shambhala Music Festival in 2017 along with another woman, a staff member of the festival who she did not refer to by name. According to Demeter, Shambhala organizers "failed to take any reasonable action" despite the reports.
"I was told that because of [Kenny's] contract, their hands were tied legally and that the best they could do was watch him like a hawk at the show," she told EDM.com. "I was informed that the staff as well as Billy's booking manager were already aware of his behaviour. Shambhala had him play that year and continued to book him in 2019 and 2020 (x2)."
In a separate statement provided to EDM.com, Demeter asserted that her goal in reporting Kenny in 2017 was to keep women at Shambhala safe. You can read her full statement below.
My only goal in reporting Billy Kenny's behaviour three years ago was to keep women at the festival safe. I know how rattled and unsafe I felt after meeting him and as a member of the Harm Reduction Team at Shambhala Music Festival, I felt it was my obligation to prevent other women from being exposed to this experience. I am sorely disappointed in the Festival for continuing to book him in subsequent years despite the multiple reports of sexual and physical misconduct in regards to Billy Kenny. These DJs are abusing their positions of power and using their fame to harm women. When you book an artist knowing they have harmed women, you are enabling them to continue the behaviour by fueling their power. You are giving them a public platform for their art. They are representing you. Many people with voices louder than mine have known about his behaviour for years and no one spoke out about it until we made the evidence against him public. Waiting for #endingrapeculture to be trendy is not a great look.
Shambhala Music Festival is now being given the opportunity to take accountability for their oversight and let the community know how they plan to do better going forward. With great power comes great responsibility and Shambhala has the power to set a positive example for our community and encourage other festivals and attendees to educate themselves about why this behaviour is harmful and what we need to do about it. When we take accountability for our actions, we make space for others to do the same. Performative allyship and silencing victims is the wrong way to address those mistakes. We need to do the work in order to end rape culture in EDM and music festival communities even when it means taking accountability. Since Shambhala's announcement, they have silenced me and blocked me from telling the truth. By silencing victims we are being complicit in enabling rape culture to continue. When it comes to sexual assault, you are either an ally or you are complicit. There is no in between.
Editor's Note: For professional guidance and support, speak with a sexual assault service provider via The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.