Business News Industry People Top Stories

Music companies must “rethink strategies” to end culture of sexual abuse

By | Published on Tuesday 19 December 2017


Following the lead of women working in the Swedish and Australian music industries, a group of British music executives have launched a campaign to tackle sexual harassment and abuse – and the misogynistic culture that allows such behaviour – in the UK music sector.

The Stop2018 campaign was launched yesterday to coincide with an edition of the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire Show’ in which a number of women working in music both on and off stage – including Chloe Howl, Yasmin Lajoie and Michelle de Vries – discussed their own experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry.

Artist manager Lajoie told the BBC: “You’d be hard pressed to find a woman working in the industry today who’s never been a victim of sexual harassment or abuse”.

Frustrated by that fact, Lajoie began gathering information about specific incidents from other women working in the business. “I expected stories of sexual harassment”, she said. “What I’ve actually received are stories of rape happening on company property, men insisting on oral sex from young women, men seriously assaulting women, raping them in apartments owned by major music companies”.

After describing the repeated sexual misconduct of a more senior colleague at a major music company where she worked earlier in her career, music supervisor de Vries recalled: “We went to a lawyer and were categorically told that he had committed a serious crime. But the lawyer said, ‘If you report this, you will never work in the industry again'”.

She and a colleague resigned from the company in question but, she adds, the man who committed the crime still works in the industry. De Vries added: “I thought it was a hangover of the 80s and 90s, but it’s very clear that this behaviour is still going on and young women are being sexually assaulted, still today”.

Launching the Stop2018 campaign yesterday, the initiative’s founders write: “We recently appeared on the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire Show’ to talk about sexual assault, misogyny and bullying in the music industry. This is an issue that affects many women, but also men too. The decision to appear on the show was not taken lightly. It has been painful and has caused us individuals a great deal of anxiety and fear over the past few weeks. We believe that we have to stand up and end the toxic culture of silence around the issue”.

They continue: “We are empowered because we are aware of many stories of severe abuse. These are stories of predatory behaviour, rape and assault usually on vulnerable persons by people in positions of power. As the journalist said on the show, she had interviewed many, many individuals in the industry with horrific experiences all of whom had been afraid of repercussions if they speak out”.

Confirming their key objective, the founders add: “We went on the show to tell our stories. We wanted to let women and men know that you are not alone. If you have experienced a sexual assault or have been made to leave your job because of bullying and harassment you are not the one at fault, however bad you have been made to feel”.

As previously reported, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood, there has been a much more frank conversation about sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry. However, to be of value that conversation now needs to lead to positive action. Or, in the words of Musicians’ Union Assistant General Secretary Naomi Pohl: “We need nothing short of wholesale cultural change in our industry, for every musician to understand what is acceptable in a workplace and what is not”.

With that in mind, the Stop2018 campaign has a specific agenda to kickstart that positive action. The founders continue: “While we applaud many wonderful individuals in the music industry who denounce harassment, misogynistic and bullying behaviour there are still many companies and persons currently working that are in the dark ages with regards to harassment issues, women’s rights and equality”.

They go on: “It has been made clear to us time and time again that when experiencing sexual assault and bullying, individuals currently have nowhere or no one to turn to. History shows that those who have spoken up have been silenced, ostracised and completely let down, usually being the ones to lose their jobs and not the perpetrator”.

The campaign then proposes four immediate action points.

First, that the industry’s trade organisations – possibly via UK Music – set up a safe place “where anyone working in the industry can speak in confidence knowing that they will not be the ones who have to suffer repercussions”.

Secondly, that “all music companies rethink their strategies, and stop working with individuals and other companies who exhibit any predatory or bullying behaviour, whether it be an employee, an artist, a producer, or a manager, a lawyer, a publicist or an agent or anyone associated with the business, however powerful and successful they may be”.

Thirdly, noting that pay inequality helps contribute to a sexist culture within companies, the campaign says it is “calling for women to be paid the same as men and to receive the same benefits in the work place. We want to see an end to the common practice that when men and women are hired at the same time, the man is often given more assistance and offered better opportunities to advance their careers – we want to see women offered the same promotion opportunities as men”.

And finally: “We are calling for an end to managers and labels telling artists they need to wear provocative clothing or to flirt with executives to be successful”.

Concluding, the founders of the Stop2018 campaign write: “Above all our hope is that 2018 is the year that bullying, misogyny, sexual harassment, assault and rape in the music industry stops. We want the business we all love so much to become a safe place for everyone to work”.

You can read more about the ‘Victoria Derbyshire Show’ report here and get more information about the Stop2018 campaign here.