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Music attorneys lay out action plan to move on from #MeToo

By | Published on Tuesday 13 November 2018

Sexual Harassment #MeToo

A group of American music business attorneys have called on the industry to properly capitalise on the #MeToo movement and start taking proactive steps to stopping harassment and abuse within the music sector.

Monika Tashman, Dina LaPolt, Debbie White and Jessie Winkler have put their names to a new op-ed in Billboard, outlining changes they think should be made at contract level by the American music industry. They also call on others to actively join them in pushing for and achieving this goal.

As #MeToo spread from the movie industry to the wider entertainment industry last year and into 2018, many women came forward with stories of harassment and assault in the music industry. However, while action was taken against several execs, and some initiatives were launched in some countries (such as the UK), it is still felt by many that globally speaking the industry has done little, if anything, to make long term changes.

“As attorneys who help craft deals and set clients’ internal policy agenda, and as women in a position to make a difference, we are putting in the work towards real and long-lasting change”, they write.

“To that end”, the say, “we would like invite the esteemed attorneys at law in our industry who share our objectives and feel like they have an obligation to their clients, and the business as a whole, to join us in the push to bring the industry into a new era where we are all free to pursue careers without having to deflect the bows and arrows of harassment and abuse along the way”.

They say that while #MeToo has been “a deeply inspiring moment”, it is now “time to change the rules, not just by raising our voices in a chorus of condemnation, but by taking concrete action”.

Setting out the basis for their argument, they go on: “We believe that the first step is to make a clear statement of standards and expectations in all service agreements across the music industry”.

That would include, the say, “artist agreements, employee agreements, management and agency agreements, production related agreements (producer, mixer, side artists) and employee manuals which includes specific language that declares a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and discrimination and a specific protocol to address violations”.

Acknowledging potential criticism, they add: “This may at first seem controversial and ripe for abuse, but we argue that it is quite the opposite – every agreement done in this business sets forth the minimum expectations of each of the parties for the business relationship”.

“There are warranties in every agreement”, they explain, “where the parties promise to perform their obligations, not to lie, not to commit copyright infringement, how to deliver a record, to act in good faith and so on – why shouldn’t there be something in the agreement itself that sets forth some basis for proper behaviour and general decency?”

The authors note also that New York and California have both already introduced new anti-harassment and anti-sexual discrimination legislation at a state level, which mandates some of what they are proposing. However, they go further in the list of new standards that they believe the music industry should be implementing. Much of which could actually be implemented globally.

Their list includes, music industry specific anti-harassment and anti-bias training, the development of multiple routes for reporting incidents, exempting instances of harassment from NDA agreements, and to ultimately “create a healthy workplace culture where sexual harassment is inconceivable”.

“For too long the business has normalised sexual predatory, outrageous and/or degrading behaviour, allowing it to persist without imposing consequences”, they conclude, before calling on the business at large to act.

“If we as an industry want change, then the entire industry needs to adopt policies that are loud, clear and prominent, with serious consequences for violators; we all need to do the work; we all need to have the hard conversations, to face the realities of the past and set the stage for the future we all want – but it takes action”.

Read the article in full here.