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#ThisIsNotWorking: Call From Musicians and Music Industry Workforce For Abuse to End

New reports reveal sexual harassment and abuse remain rife in the music industry despite the #MeToo movement. We’re calling on the Government and music industry organisations to protect musicians and other workers from victimisation and harassment.

Published: 03 September 2021 | 10:22 AM
Photograph of a woman backstage, she has a concerned expression and is looking into her mob
It’s not just high-profile artists who are put at risk by the culture of the music industry – victimisation and sexual abuse is also rife behind-the-scenes. Photo credit: Stocksy

New reports highlight that harassment and abuse remain a prominent problem for the music industry. The MU is calling on the UK Government to act urgently on its pledge to strengthen protections for those affected by harassment at work.

As the industry attempts to bounce back post-pandemic and those who lost jobs and income urgently seek employment, the MU warns many could find themselves more vulnerable to exploitation.

In recent months, artists such as Rebecca Ferguson and Lily Allen have shone a spotlight on the abuse by senior figures and organisations in the industry, detailing their experiences which range from sexual harassment and assault to bullying and coercive control. However, the MU warns it’s not just high-profile artists who are put at risk by the culture of the music industry – victimisation and sexual abuse is also rife behind-the-scenes.

It’s vital the industry adopts a zero-tolerance approach to ensure everyone in the creative arts is protected

New reports from a group of women, all ex-employees and freelancers from a well-known music promotions company in the North of England, reveal shocking testimonies of ill-treatment, sexual harassment and assault, at the hands of their employer.

One anonymous case study says:

I experienced sexual harassment constantly at work – both in and outside of the office. I was regularly groped and touched inappropriately. Outside the workplace, my manager would often send me lewd, explicit photos or videos of himself. I never felt safe.

“Like many of the other survivors I know I’m still traumatised by my experiences. When you choose to work in the music industry it’s often because you have a real love of the arts. You want to be surrounded by passionate, creative people – not entering a workspace when you worry you may be assaulted by your employer. More needs to be done to protect people in the industry both on and off-stage. I’m hopeful that through sharing stories like ours that we can help implement industry-wide positive change.”

Naomi Pohl, Deputy General Secretary of the MU, says:

"It's unacceptable that so many artists, musicians, employees, and freelancers have suffered abuse at work and that many have left the industry as a result. With more women stepping forward to share their experiences, it’s vital the industry adopts a zero-tolerance approach to ensure everyone in the creative arts is protected as they return to work.

“We’re pleased to see the Government is recognising the seriousness of this issue after having recently convened a series of important creative industries-wide meetings to ensure positive action is implemented. Now we ask for action: we need the Government to strengthen the law to prevent sexual harassment at work before it happens.

“Together, with survivors, and other trade bodies like UK Music who are committed to ensuring change happens, we want to create a movement to ensure the music industry is a safe place to work for everyone.”

In just three years we have received hundreds of reports

Prior to the pandemic, a poll of its members by the MU revealed:

  • 48% of musicians have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work
  • 58% had witnessed an incident of sexual harassment whilst at work
  • 10% had witnessed incidents of sexual harassment on a regular basis

The MU has long been campaigning to make the music industry a safer place to work. In 2018, the trade union launched its Safe Space service – offering musicians and other music industry workers a ‘safe space’ to confidentially report sexual harassment, abuse, bullying and discrimination in the industry. In just three years, the Union has received hundreds of reports, demonstrating the real need for action now.

The MU is also calling on the public to sign up for free to its Supporter programme to become part of the movement to protect musicians in the workplace and add weight to its demand of the government.

We have normalised abuse for too long and it needs to stop

Singer-songwriter, Rebecca Ferguson has stepped forward to support the MU’s call to action. Ferguson says:

What we are talking about here is injustice. An imbalance of power and people using their power and their position to abuse people with less power. It’s not good enough! We need to be able to call these things out for what they are with no fear, or it will never change.

“We have future generations to think about; there is a huge responsibility on all of us working in the creative arts to create a better and safer environment for the youth. There is no use in pushing the youth to work within the creative industry’s if we’re not willing to tackle these kind of problems.

“We have normalised abuse for too long and it needs to stop! I support the Musicians’ Union and I hope that 2022 is the year that adequate legislation is introduced to protect people working within the creative industries. A Standards Authority that is completely independent should work alongside MU to enforce legislation.

“I was told that I had been booked by the people involved in this case in the past and that me providing a comment could compromise me! To that I say, let me be compromised. I will always speak out against abuse and stand up for people who are suffering injustice and the rest of the industry needs to grow a backbone and do the same, stand up and speak out against abuse! Because if we all stand together, it will stop!”

Find out more about our campaign to end sexual harassment at work.

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